Latest news on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

The Bill has been carried over to the 2013-14 session. The Bill is due to have its report stage and third reading on 20 and 21 May 2013. The Government Bill was presented to Parliament on 24 January 2013. It completed its committee stage on 12 March 2013 and had its second reading debate on 5 February 2012.

A list of proposed amendments and new clauses has been published here. I suspect that as with the previous list of amendments considered in committee, none of these new amendments will be approved. Mr David Burrowes with other signatories, is responsible for a number of amendments. One proposes that a referendum be held on the whole idea of same-sex marriage. Others are designed to protect individuals in schools from having to teach that marriage is anything other than between a man and a woman and to protect those employed as registrars from having to conduct a same-sex marriage. Others are designed to allow for humanist same-sex marriages and to make additional provision for those who have transitioned. Here are the bones of the most significant amendments: 

(1) A referendum is to be held in England and Wales on the issue of same sex marriage.
(2) The referendum must be held before 1 June 2016.
(3) The referendum is to be held on 7 May 2015.
(8) The question that is to appear on the ballot papers is—
“At present, the law in England and Wales defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Should the law be changed to define marriage as the union of two people—whether a man and a woman, or woman and a woman, or a man and a man?”

No school shall be under any duty to promote or endorse an understanding of the nature of marriage and its importance for  family life and the bringing up of children, that runs contrary to the designated religious character of the school.

No registrar shall be under any duty to conduct, be present at, carry out, participate in, or consent to the taking place of, a relevant marriage ceremony to which he has a conscientious objection.  The conscientious objection must be based on a sincerely-held religious or other belief.

No person shall be under any duty, whether by contract or by statutory or other legal requirement, to conduct a marriage to which he has a conscientious objection if he is employed as a registrar of marriages on the date this Act comes in force. For the purposes of this section, a “conscientious objection” exists where the refusal to conduct a marriage is only that it concerns a same sex couple, and is based on the person’s sincerely held religious or other beliefs.

Discussion or criticism of same sex marriage shall not be taken of itself to be discrimination.

Compliance with the duties ensuring that a belief regarding the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman is respected and that no person should suffer any detriment in respect of the holding or the reasonable expression of such a belief.

The protected characteristic of religion or belief may include a belief regarding the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman.

No school shall be under any duty as a result of the guidance issued to promote or endorse an understanding of the nature of marriage and its importance for family life and the bringing up of children, that runs contrary to the designated religious character of the school.

The Registrar General may by certificate approve organisations to solemnize marriages according to their usages provided that any such organization is a registered charity principally concerned with advancing or practising the non-religious belief known as humanism.

Where a civil partnership formed under part 1, section 96 of the Civil Partnership Act (Civil Partnership with former spouse) is converted into a marriage under this section—
(a) the civil partnership ends on the conversion, and
(b) if both partners so elect, the resulting marriage is to be treated as having subsisted since the marriage dissolved under Schedule 2 of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 was formed.’.

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