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UK: Commons okays marriage bill now headed for House of Lords

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — MPs in the House of Commons voted in favour of same-sex marriage in England and Wales during the bill's third and final reading, with 161 legislators voting against the measure, the BBC reports.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill now moves on to the House of Lords for more debate that is expected to be tense.

A vigil against the bill was held opposite the Palace of Westminster as the debate took place.

Inside, gay Conservative MP Nick Herbert, who was among 366 MPs who backed the measure, said it provides safeguards for those church bodies that do not want to conduct same-sex ceremonies against their will. "The fact this bill does protect church organizations should give confidence to this House of Commons we can proceed with this measure," he added.

"This is not a measure that can be remotely held to do any harm to people at all and a very great deal of good can be done by it too," Herbert said.

For her part, culture secretary Maria Miller said she accepts that there are colleagues whose beliefs mean that the "principle of this issue is an insurmountable barrier to supporting this change, but to other colleagues I say, now is the time. 

“Let us not be side-tracked nor distracted. Let us not expand the remit of this bill beyond its original intention. Let us make equal marriage possible because it is the right thing to do and then let us move on."

Getting the bill passed has proven to be a great challenge for Prime Minister David Cameron, who has lost support from within the Conservative Party for championing the measure.

In an interview with Pink News, gay Conservative MP Crispin Blunt said, "Everyone knows the fire he’s going through with some of his own colleagues in order to deliver this." Blunt said he hopes people are going to be "appropriately grateful for the fantastic leadership that he’s shown on this.”

He added, “Once this is done, it’s finished, it’s over and everyone will wonder what on earth all the fuss was about.”

In her contribution to the debate, the Labour Party's shadow equalities minister, Yvette Cooper, referred to the joyous reception that the New Zealand parliament witnessed when its legislators legalized gay marriage. "I thank all those who are supporting the bill. Let us be loud and proud. Let us start the singing. Let us celebrate, not discriminate. Let us pass this bill. Let us put aside the anger, and let us hear it for the joy."