Updated: The journey to equality continues: Same Sex Marriage Bill passes first Lords stage

mark and ros at equal marriage vigilThe Same Sex Marriage Bill received its Second Reading in the House of Lords this evening after Lord Dear’s wrecking amendment was defeated by a much larger than expected majority of 390-148 after two days of debate.

While this is obviously welcome news for the Bill’s supporters, there is still virtually limitless potential for their Lordships to make mischief with its provisions.

It will be very important to keep talking to Lords in the run-up to the next stage of the Bill. It will now be considered line by line by a Committee, which will then report back to the House. At that stage all sorts of amendments can be tabled.

The lovely picture on the right was taken by Lord (Richard) Allan of Hallam at the bright, fun and highly enjoyable equal marriage vigil which Ed Fordham had such a big hand in organising. The London Gay Men’s Chorus provided entertainment which could apparently be heard in the Chamber itself. Perhaps when the Bill finally passes, we’ll have a New Zealand type moment.

I will update this post either later tonight or tomorrow when the Lords division results are posted to let you know how Liberal Democrat peers voted.

Update: From the Lords Division result page we can see that 73 Liberal Democrat peers voted against the wrecking amendment and 2 voted for it. Those two were Baroness Nicholson and Lord Methuen. That is a good turnout and marginally better than Richard says below in the comments. As I said above, the potential for further unhelpful amendments to be tabled at the next stage is high and it will be important for those in favour of the Bill to keep in touch with our Lords to persuade them to carry through their vote. We were able to hold on to most of our Commons votes between Second and Third Reading and our aim should be the same in the Lords.

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

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  • Richard Wingfield 5th Jun '13 - 12:26am

    I’ve had a quick analysis of the voting results (the geek that I am). I make it 72 out of our 89 peers (81%) who voted against Lord Dear’s motion and therefore for second reading. There’s a large caveat that some of those may oppose the principle of same-sex marriage, but felt that it was inappropriate for the House of Lords to reject a government Bill on second reading. Lord Phillips of Sudbury, at least, falls into this category.

    Only 2 peers (2%) voted in favour of Lord Dear’s motion: Lord Methuen and Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne. Neither participated in the debate and so their reasons for voting in favour of the motion are unknown.

    15 peers (17%) did not vote at all. One of those, Paddy Ashdown, has said that he was in favour of the Bill but that he is in France this week researching his new book and so was unable to vote; Tom McNally and Anthony Lester have also both stated their support for the Bill and – I am sure – must have had good reasons for missing the vote. Another, Lord Alderdice spoke against the Bill, and so appears to have deliberately abstained. That leaves 11 entirely unaccounted for.

    Not that I am in any way tribal, but whereas only 72% of Labour peers voted against Lord Dear’s motion, 81% of Lib Dem peers did, meaning the Bill received strongest support from us out of the three main parties. Not that that’s a surprise, but I’m pleased and proud nonetheless.

  • “McNally, L.” voted Not Content.

  • “Perhaps when the Bill finally passes, we’ll have a New Zealand type moment.”


  • The thing that impressed me was that our peers seemed to have provided a much more united and liberal voting block than our MPs did on this.

  • Of the LD peers who did not participate in the division on the Same Sex Marriage Bill, at least three are very elderly, and others may currently be in poor health or simply abroad (as e.g. Lord Ashdown), so the total of absentees who might have been expected to be present is likely to be less than ten, and may indeed have been less than that.

    We should be content to congratulate those peers who did vote on their excellent turnout on the winning side in the division.

  • Tony Greaves 5th Jun '13 - 6:08pm

    81% is an amazingly high figure for the Lords for any of the bigger groups. On a free vote it’s astonishing. It’s noteworthy that all the larger groups in the House had a vote against the Dear amendment. The question is why both sides were saying it was “too close to call” at the weekend. It seems that the Dear camp just did not understand the numbers in the House (as opposed to the list of speakers). The pro-Bill camp were probably just trying to increase the turnout in a traditional manner to give them as big a walloping as possible!

    The figures according to The Public Whip are:

    Party Majority (Not-Content) Minority (Content) Turnout

    Bishop 0 – 9 32.1%
    Con 82 – 67 66.5%
    Lab 162 – 15 73.8%
    LDem 76 – 2 80.4%
    Crossbench 66 – 45 57.5%
    Others 4 – 10

    TOTAL 388 -146 66.0%

    This is close to a record turnout for the Lords.

    The atmosphere across the road yesterday was really good. The two opposing groups of campaigners formed two circles, feet apart, with alternate singing and speeches and chanting, with the police nearby but letting them get on with it.

    But it’s not over yet. Two days have been set aside for Committee (of the whole House) – 17th and 19th June. There is some doubt about whether these days will be enough for the committee stage. Committee will be followed by Report stage about a week later, then Third Reading which in the Lords is a separate stage, the week after that.

    Meanwhile expect a lot of amendments to be tabled for Committee stage. In the Lords, every amendment tabled is debated (in groups of amendments related to the same issue).

    Tony Greaves

  • Richard Wingfield 5th Jun '13 - 11:56pm

    Apologies to Lord McNally for missing him out! I think that makes 82% of Lib Dem peers voting in favour of the Bill. Public Whip is showing that the turnout of 538 peers is the fourth highest turnout in this Parliament. Only the Health and Social Care Bill attracted a greater turnout.

    Thank you for the update on the timescale, Tony. It would look like the Bill will complete its passage through the Lords by mid-July. The House of Commons – who will need to approve any amendments the Lords make – goes into recess on 18 July. I presume the Prime Minister wants the Bill to receive Royal Assent by then lest the controversy drag on all over the summer recess.

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