Baroness Barker came out in the debate
Britain’s traditionally stuffy House of Lords has voted overwhelmingly against an effort to scupper a same-sex marriage bill, moving it closer to becoming law.
On Tuesday, peers voted 390 against and 148 in favour of a controversial attempt by Lord Geoffrey Dear to have the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill thrown out.
Lord Dear warned that the bill would “completely alter the concept of marriage as we know it”.
The issue came in for fierce debate in the house this week, and saw one of the peers coming out as a lesbian.
“Many years ago, I had the great fortune to meet someone,” declared Baroness Liz Barker. “She and I have loved each other ever since ﾗ that is, apart from the occasional spectacular argument, usually about driving or DIY.”
She went on to say that the bill “reflects the wishes of those people who today do not want just to tolerate lesbians and gay men; they want to celebrate and support them as people in their own right”.
In the debate, Lord Guy Black also spoke of his partner of almost 25 years, stating: “I love him very much, and nothing would give me greater pride than to marry him.”
Lord Dear’s so-called ‘fatal motion’ was rejected by a majority of 242 peers and is a significant victory for same-sex marriage supporters.
News of the vote was met with cheers from a crowd of gay marriage supporters outside the House of the Lords.
The bill now proceeds to Committee Stage in the House of Lords where it will face further scrutiny.
“We’re absolutely delighted,” commented Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of LGBT rights group Stonewall. “We always expected a tough challenge in the House of Lords, and Lord Dear’s ‘fatal motion’ ﾖ very rarely used – demonstrates the lengths to which a minority of peers are, sadly, still prepared to go to deny full equality to lesbian, gay and bisexual people.”
He went on to say: “In the last 24 hours alone, opponents of equality in the House of Lords have compared loving, committed relationships to incest and polygamy. Britain’s 3.7 million gay people don’t deserve to be second class citizens in their own country. A tough fight lies ahead and we’ll continue to work tirelessly every single day to get equal marriage through the Lords.”
The House of Lords is seen by critics as an archaic institution in Britain’s parliament. The majority of peers are appointed to the house by the Queen, instead of being elected. They are members for life, with an average age of 69.
The House of Lords cannot halt bills, except in rare circumstances. It can also make revisions to a bill and can delay its passage through parliament.