History was created yesterday in British politics where the House of Commons passed the first stage of the same sex marriage bill coming into force. The defining of marriage seems to be the hall mark of a day of debates yesterday as I watched opposing and supporting views of this latest bill.
So the question is how does same-sex marriage differ from civil partnership?
Although civil partnership is a legal relationship created exclusively for same-sex couples, distinct from marriage. It offers the same legal treatment as marriage across a range of matters, such as inheritance, pension’s provision, life assurance, child maintenance, next of kin and immigration rights.
Opposite-sex couples can opt for a religious or civil marriage ceremony, whereas a same-sex partnership is an exclusively civil procedure.
It is reported that Party leaders at Westminster have hailed the significance of the backing for same-sex marriage in England and Wales in this key vote.
Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday’s vote had been “an important step forward” and Labour leader Ed Miliband called it a “proud day” according to the BBC.
MPs voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill by 400 to 175, a majority of 225.
But 136 Tory MPs opposed the bill and have continued to voice their concerns.
While watching the debate and listening keenly to the supporting voices and the dissenting voices I am left to wonder as to how much of democracy was really at work? To what level has been the consultation with the British public by the Members of Parliament in order for them to articulate their views and as well to vote in the way they did?
Yet again listening to the after debates there seems to be more discussion as to whether Cameron pulled off a good one in placing him in a good position to lead the Conservative in the next general election, albeit with a divided party or may lead to a revolt. But, by the next general election unity could prevail as a day in politics can make a major difference. Never forget we are two years before the next election and who knows the British public may come around to the Conservative way of thinking.
But what could be the underlining factor that lead to the Prime Minister to navigate this bill which was not in the party manifesto when we were knocking on people’s door inviting and encouraging them to vote for the conservative party in 2010.
It is clear now that the plans to legalise same-sex marriage have divided the Conservative Party, as from the votes more Tory MPs voted against the bill than voted for it.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said he believes same-sex marriages should be allowed in churches – but only if there is a “100%” guarantee that no church, synagogue or mosque would be forced to hold one against their wishes.
Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said the legislation was a triumph for his party, which has championed the plans. Most Labour MPs, including Ed Miliband, also support the move.
But why do campaigners want same-sex marriage? The supporters cite a number of reasons for wanting gay marriage, including that separate civil partnerships perpetuate the notion that same-sex relationships are not as valid as heterosexual ones and that legal rights are still not exactly the same as those conferred by marriage.
Home Secretary Theresa May and Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone say: “Put simply, it’s not right that a couple who love each other and want to formalise a commitment to each other should be denied the right to marry.”
Campaigners also say there would be international recognition for same-sex marriage. They say there is no universally-accepted recognition of civil partnerships and they differ widely from one country to the next.
Either way the lobbyist has prevailed to moved the hands of the Prime Minister via the various channels, I am however persuaded to the view that while the division remains and while this bill could be a good thing and could be the will of the majority of the British public, would it not be better as a question on the ballot at the next general election or Council elections?
Equality is key, but the process of redefining historical traditions could set a precedent where there will be punters out there now looking for other avenues to redefine.
Finally, as I always say politics does matter.
To see list of how your MP voted see link http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-21346694
Sylbourne S B Sydial
February 6th 2013