Gay marriage passes final parliamentary test in England, Wales

July 16, 2013 at 10:42 PM
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LONDON, July 16 (UPI) -- The British House of Commons gave same-sex marriage final parliamentary approval Tuesday with the first weddings expected next year in England and Wales.

The lower house did not challenge changes made in the House of Lords, The Daily Telegraph reported. They included allowing people who change gender to remain in their existing marriages.

The leadership of the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labor parties all backed the bill. But Sir Gerald Howarth, a former Conservative defense minister, accused the governing coalition of ignoring the rank and file in his party.

"I have to say that it is astonishing that a bill for which there is absolutely no mandate, against which a majority of Conservatives voted, has been bulldozed through both Houses and just two hours of debate tonight is an absolute parliamentary disgrace," he said.

Officials said Queen Elizabeth II is expected to give the Royal Assent by the end of the week. Gays could marry legally by mid-2014 in England and Wales.

On Monday, peers, many of them wearing pink carnations, gave final assent to the bill, the Telegraph said.

The Coalition for Marriage, however, promised to take aim at 39 members of the House of Commons of all parties who supported the bill and are seen as being in marginal seats. The coalition also said it would lobby for inheritance laws that would give people caring for elderly or disabled relatives or unmarried siblings the same rights as married couples.

Colin Hart, the coalition's executive director, said the group has identified 700,000 supporters in its base -- six times the number of people belonging to the Conservative Party.

"They are just ordinary men and women, not part of the ruling elite," he said. "They are passionate, motivated and determined to fight on against a law that renders terms like husband and wife meaningless and threatens one of the foundations of the institution of marriage: fidelity and faithfulness."

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