Vote sees majority of Bristol MPs in favour of gay marriage
By The Bristol Post | Wednesday, February 06, 2013, 09:30
BRISTOL MPs have helped pave the way for gay marriage after the House of Commons backed controversial new laws.
House of Commons
Liam Fox, Conservative, North Somerset, against
Charlotte Leslie, Conservative, Bristol North West, abstained
Jack Lopresti, Conservative, Filton and Bradley Stoke, against
Kerry McCarthy, Labour, Bristol East, for
Dawn Primarolo, Labour, Bristol South, did not vote
Jacob Rees Mogg, Conservative, North East Somerset, against
John Penrose, Conservative, Weston-super-Mare, for
Chris Skidmore, Conservative, Kingswood, for
Steve Webb, Lib Dem, Thornbury and Yate, for
Stephen Williams, Lib Dem, Bristol West, for
Following a five-hour debate the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill passed its second reading by 400 votes to 175.
Bristol West Liberal Democrat MP Stephen Williams, who is openly gay, spoke in favour of the Bill during the debate.
He was joined in supporting it by Bristol East Labour MP Kerry McCarthy, Thornbury and Yate Lib Dem Steve Webb, and Tories Chris Skidmore (Kingswood) and John Penrose (Weston-super-Mare).
During the debate Mr Williams urged MPs to "have some empathy for what your fellow citizens have been through".
He said: "What we are doing today, I think, will be remembered for a long time.
"Tonight, what we do will be looked upon kindly by history."
But 139 Conservative MPs defied their party to oppose the Bill, including North Somerset MP Liam Fox, Jack Lopresti (Filton and Bradley Stoke) and Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset).
Earlier this week Mr Rees-Mogg told the BBC that on this issue he took his "whip from the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church rather than the Whip's Office".
Bristol North West Tory MP Charlotte Leslie effectively abstained, by voting both for and against the Bill.
Bristol South MP Dawn Primarolo did not vote as she is still recovering from hip replacement surgery carried out late last month. The Labour MP had already announced that she would be off work for about six weeks while she recovers.
The Bill will enable same-sex couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies, assuming a church or religious organisation has given its consent. It will also allow couples who had previously entered into civil partnerships to convert their relationship into a marriage.
The Bill has caused division among Conservative Party members.
Yesterday The Post reported that leading Bristol Tory Richard Eddy, a Bishopsworth ward councillor and former leader of the Conservative group on the city council, had quit as chairman of Bristol South Conservative Association in protest.
In his resignation letter, the 46-year-old accused Mr Cameron of "refusing to listen to the vast majority in his party" and being obsessed with pursuing a "liberal agenda".
The free vote, which meant MPs were not forced to toe the party line, came after a concerted push by the Conservative Party to persuade its MPs to back the proposals.
Speaking just before MPs voted, Prime Minister David Cameron said same-sex marriage was "an important step forward" and would "make our society stronger".
He added: "I am a strong believer in marriage. It helps people commit to each other and I think it is right that gay people should be able to get married too."
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said the vote was "a landmark for equality in Britain".
He said: "Marriage is about love and commitment, and it should no longer be denied to people just because they are gay."
Labour leader Ed Miliband hailed the vote as "a proud day and an important step forward in the fight for equality in Britain".
He said: "The overwhelming majority of Labour MPs supported this change to make sure marriage reflects the value we place on long-term, loving relationships whoever you love."
The Bill will now be considered by a committee of MPs, which includes Mr Williams.