BRITISH PRIME MINISTER David Cameron needed the help of members of the opposition Labour party to secure victory in a crucial vote on gay marriage in England and Wales.
Nearly half of the MPs from Cameron’s Conservative Party voted against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill when a final vote was held in the House of Commons tonight.
Labour’s 257 MPs had planned to abstain on the vote – but Cameron was forced to call on opposition leader Ed Miliband to encourage enough support for the bill to be passed.
The final vote saw a comfortable 366 to 161 victory. Each of the major parties offered members a free vote.
The Daily Telegraph said Labour’s front bench applauded when the result of the vote was announced, though Cameron did not – mindful of the significant opposition to the bill within his own party.
Opposition MPs were also needed to defeat a series of major amendments to the bill – including one which would have required the government to offer civil partnership to heterosexual couples, an attempt at making the bill deliberately unworkable.
The legislation will now to go the House of Lords, where another batch of controversial amendments are being plotted by peers who oppose the bill.
Many on the right wing of the Conservative Party have argued that the government’s support for gay marriage and other relatively liberal social reforms are sending traditional conservative voters into the hands of the UK Independence Party, which scored major breakthroughs in local elections this month.
A former Conservative chairman, Lord Norman Tebitt, has warned that legal recognition of gay marriage and a reform of the succession system to the British throne would allow a future lesbian queen to give birth to an heir through artificial insemination.
If enacted, the legislation would allow full same-sex marriage in England and Wales. The assemblies of Scotland and Northern Ireland have devolved justice powers, meaning it is up to legislators from those areas to govern marriage in those jurisdictions.