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The UK Government published their plans for legalising gay marriage in England and Wales on Tuesday, November 11, 2012. The consultation on plans for same-sex marriage received 228,000 submissions.
The government planned to introduce gay marriage in England and Wales by 2014. Gay marriage legislation did not feature in the election manifestos of either the Conservative or Liberal Democrat parties, the two parties in Britain’s then Coalition Government. To appease more than 100 Tory MPs planning to vote against the legislation, the Government proposed a “quadruple lock” to make it illegal for gay marriage ceremonies to be conducted by the churches of England and Wales.
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was published on 24 January 2013, to enable same-sex couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies – where a religious institution has formally consented; and couples would be able to convert their existing civil partnership into a marriage.
The first debate on the Bill and the Second Reading was held on 5 February 2013. 400 MPs voted in favour of the Bill and 175 MPs voted against. The Bill then went to Committee where it was examined in great detail, and supporters and opponents could give evidence supporting their views. The Committee finished its deliberations on the Bill on 12 March 2013. The Bill passed its third reading on 21 May 2013 by 366 votes for, to 161 votes against.
The Guardian reported on 12 December 2012 that public opinion appeared to be overwhelmingly in favour of equality in marriage. Three-quarters of voters supported same-sex marriage. 45% thought that gay people should be allowed to get married to each other but religious organisations should not be required to provide wedding ceremonies to gay people, but 28% thought that gay people should be allowed to get married to each other and religious organisations should be required to provide wedding ceremonies to gay people. Nearly three quarters of voters – 73% – wanted to allow gay marriage while less than a quarter – 24% – did not. Only one in six – 17% – thought that gay people should not be allowed to get married but should be allowed to form a civil partnership.
The House of Lords passed the Bill on July 15th, 2013. The Government decided to accept the Bill as amended by The Lords, and on July 16th 2013 the Bill was formally passed by the Commons. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II gave the Act the Royal Assent on July 17th 2013. The Act is now operational.
Updated 13 Nov 2014 – Act now operational.