BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — By a vote of 400 to 175, the House of Commons voted in favour of a bill that would legalize gay marriage in England and Wales, the BBC reports.
About 140 MPs from Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party, plus a few Labour and Liberal Democrat lawmakers, opposed the measure in a free vote. All eight Welsh Conservative MPs gave the bill the thumbs-down.
The bill now heads to committee for further consideration and possible amendments before it undergoes a third reading. It will then move to the House of Lords, where it is also expected to pass.
During debate, Conservative Tory MP Roger Gale said it's not possible to redefine marriage, asserting that it is a union between a man and a woman — "has been historically, remains so. It is Alice in Wonderland territory, Orwellian almost, for any government of any political persuasion to seek to come along and try to rewrite the lexicon."
"Are the marriages of millions of straight people about to be threatened because a few thousand gay people are permitted to join?" his Conservative colleague Nick Herbert wanted to know. "What will they say? Darling, our marriage is over. Sir Elton John has just got engaged to David Furnish."
Equalities Minister Maria Miller spoke about the measure's merits during the debate in the absence of Cameron, who was meeting with American Vice President Joe Biden.
Miller said the bill is about fairness. "It's about giving those who want to get married the opportunity to do so whilst protecting the rights of those who don't agree with same-sex marriage," she said, adding that "equal marriage should not come at the cost of freedom of faith, nor freedom of faith come at the cost of equal marriage."
No religious instititution will be forced to marry gay people.
Some hours after the debate, Cameron said he respects that there are strong views on both sides of the issue, but he argues that the legislation is "an important step forward" for the country.