How Liberal Democrat MPs voted on same sex marriage amendments

The only vote which had been published before I went to my bed last night was that on freedom of conscience for registrars. I’ve now had a look at some of the others in  Hansard.

In addition to the 11 who voted in favour of registrars being able to exempt themselves from conducting same sex marriages, there were two abstentions, from Vince Cable and Mark Williams. We had 36 voting in favour and Sir Bob Russell was telling.

The next vote was on whether marriage between a man and a woman should be made a protected characteristic of a religion in terms of the Equality Act 2010.  Eight of our MPs voted in favour with most voting against:

Alan Beith

Gordon Birtwistle

Tim Farron

John Hemming

Simon Hughes

John Pugh

Sarah Teather

Mark Williams.

Three MPs who had voted in favour of the opt-out for registrars voted against this. They were Duncan Hames, Norman Baker and Paul Burstow. Mulholland abstained.

On the next vote, nine Liberal Democrats voted for protection for those public servants who refused to conduct same sex marriages. They were:

Alan Beith

Gordon Birtwistle

Tim Farron

Sir Nick Harvey

John Hemming

Simon Hughes

Greg Mulholland

John Pugh

Sarah Teather

Only three MPs supported Tim Loughton’s attempt to introduce civil partnerships for heterosexual couples as part of the Bill now rather than wait for the review. They were Alan Beith, Simon Hughes and Greg Mulholland, who made a long and detailed speech on the subject.

Seven MPs appear to have been absent because they don’t seem to have voted on anything. They are:

Malcolm Bruce – on constituency business, although he definitely supports the bill, because he told me so yesterday.

Mike Hancock – ill

Mark Hunter – believed to be absent with permission of whips.

Norman Lamb – out of the country on ministerial business but would have voted with Government  – see comment below

John Leech – but his support for the bill is clear.

David Ward

Jenny Willott – on maternity leave, although she is also in favour of the Bill.

I should point out that none of these votes should be considered as an official rebellion. MPs were not whipped, as I reported last week.  However, readers and particularly Liberal Democrat members will no doubt have their own opinions on the way MPs voted.

There are more amendments coming up today – some proposed by Stephen Williams and Julian Huppert on such subjects as legalisation of humanist weddings.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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This entry was posted in News and Parliament.


  • Malcolm Todd 21st May '13 - 11:51am

    Explain to me why voting for civil partnership to be extended to male/female couples is illiberal, or would somehow derail this bill. Seriously, I don’t get it, and I haven’t heard any explanation for it. I’m not sure I see the point in civil partnership even existing — it was so obviously invented as a sop for gay couples by the last government because they didn’t think they could get “real” marriage for same-sex couples through — but if it is going to continue, as a sort of second-best marriage, then why on earth shouldn’t it be available to all, for exactly the same reasons that marriage should be?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 21st May '13 - 12:11pm

    I have absolutely no problem with civil partnerships being extended to heterosexual couples and I am not sure why you are suggesting some think it’s illiberal.

    I doubted that Tim Loughton was really the champion for equality he was pretending to be, though. Tories don’t like things that aren’t marriage, he’d spent the whole night supporting deeply illiberal amendments, so there was clearly an ulterior motive. I don’t think Greg’s or Simon’s position was voting for it as a wrecking amendment, though.

    I had some sympathy with the Government’s position – this was about extending marriage to same sex couples, righting that particular wrong, rather than extending civil partnerships, but they should have dealt with this when it first became an issue months ago.

    Civil partnerships are only a problem when they are the only option for same sex couples – by their nature they are discriminatory. Once the barriers are removed and same sex couples are able to marry, then that discrimination no longer exists and they are a valid choice – and should be so for everyone. It didn’t all have to be sorted last night, though.

  • I am in favour of something to deal with the people who believe that by living together they have a common law marriage. I used to see a lot as a family Magistrate. I have no idea whether civil partnership would do this but I support it.
    But I am certain that it is complicated, so would have voted against to give time for consultation and detail to be done. Political votes don’t always achieve the outcome you want.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 21st May '13 - 12:33pm

    Yes, Andrew. You are absolutely right about John Leech. There will have been a very good reason for his absence, I am certain. John has done a huge amount on all equality issues.

  • Malcolm Todd 21st May '13 - 12:43pm

    I didn’t necessarily mean you thought so, Caron — though it’s curious to include those who voted for that particular amendment alongside lists of those who voted to lessen the equalising impact of the bill. The fact that Tim Loughton was in favour of it is neither here nor there — sure, I’m very suspicious of his motives, but I don’t understand how his approach could further his agenda and I still don’t see an explanation of that. “He’s for it so I’m against it” is never a valid argument.
    And the idea that this was about something completely different, as if this was a spurious tacking-on of a completely different subject, is just not credible. Civil partnership and marriage are very clearly two forms of much the same thing (so much that, as I said before, I don’t see the point in having both — and again, I haven’t seen any explanation of why we should) and as such it would have made perfect sense to include both in this bill. And what would be so complicated about it? The forms of civil partnership are all there — all that’s needed is to remove the requirement that both partners are of the same sex.

  • Ed Maxfield 21st May '13 - 2:21pm

    Norman Lamb is out of the country on ministerial duties which is why he was unable to participate in the votes last night. If he had been there he would have voted with the government.

  • Richard Wingfield 21st May '13 - 3:37pm

    I think there are a number of good reasons why people voted against the equal civil partnerships amendment.

    First, the Government hadn’t done any preparatory work into the effects of opening up civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples and one would, of course, expect this to be done whilst the legislation is going through Parliament. As a result, it would have delayed the Bill and, thereby, the first same sex marriages. I think it it’s generally accepted that the hardship gay couples face by not being able to get married is greater than that opposite-sex couples face by not being able to have a civil partnership.

    Second, the amendment was insufficiently drafted. There may well need to be amendments to other Acts of Parliaments and pieces of secondary legislation in order for there to be no legislative inconsistencies.

    Third, and related to the first reason, including provisions on civil partnerships in the Bill would have widened its scope and allowed for more potential trickery in the House of Lords. By keeping the Bill as tight and narrowly-focused as possible, there is less chance for things to go wrong.

    I certainly believe that civil partnerships should be opened to all couples and whilst I was initially supportive of the amendment which would do this, I have been convinced otherwise and tend to agree that a speedy consultation process followed by standalone legislation is probably the best way to do this, so as not to de-rail the most pressing inequality, that of same-sex couples not being allowed to marry.

    I have to say I’m disappointed that 15 of our MPs voted in favour of one or more amendments that would have weakened the legislation. I’m particularly disappointed in Alan Beith and Simon Hughes who voted in favour of all four, including the amendment which could have de-railed the Bill in its entirety.

  • The principle about extending CPs to mixed sex unions is sound, but the amendment was designed to delay the marriage bill because of process in parliament. I favour CPs for all who want civic, but perhaps not ‘religious’ recognition for their union.

    Am however shocked at the % of LD MPs voting against civil rights measures.
    Really, shocked.

  • So 4 Liberal Democrat MPs voted against the whole bill: Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed), Gordon Birtwistle (Burnley), John Pugh (Southport), Sarah Teather (Brent Central).

    I’m particularly disappointed in Sarah Teather.

  • Ted Chapman 23rd May '13 - 4:39pm

    I am disappointed that my MP (Norman Lamb) would have voted for the bill,as I believe strongly that true marriage is between Man and Woman,the rites of gays was covered well enough with civil partnership recognition,I have to say this may well affect my decision regard voting at the next election where up till now I have always voted for Norman.

  • Scott Bainbridge 10th Jun '13 - 8:59pm

    A very good point made by Ted Fletcher. It is sad that those who take the view that marriage is defined by biology not politically correct ideology are dismissed as ‘illiberal’ and bigots!

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