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Thanks to the votes of Labour MPs, David Cameron handily defeated a rebel backbencher’s wrecking amendment to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.
Former children’s minister Tim Loughton tabled an amendment that would have allowed heterosexual couples to form civil partnerships. Right now, they are only available to homosexual couples. Loughton argued that it is unfair to discriminate against heterosexual couples, and he claimed that allowing them to enter into civil partnerships would encourage many of Britain’s cohabiting couples to formalize their relationships.
“Cohabitation is the fastest-growing form of family in this country, and we need to recognise that our society is changing, whether or not we approve,” he said.
“People choose not to get involved in the whole paraphernalia of formal marriage for a variety of reasons: it is too much of an establishment thing to do; it is too much of a religious institution for some, and even if done in a register office, it has religious connotations; there is a patriarchal side to it; it is a form of social control—there are a whole load of complex motives as to why many of our constituents do not go down the formal marriage route,” he continued.
Cameron opposes extending civil partnership rights to opposite-sex couples on the grounds that it could undermine the institution of marriage, and if Loughton’s amendment had passed, it could have proved fatal to the bill’s progress.
To add to Cameron’s woes, many Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs are known to support heterosexual civil partnerships. In the lead up to the vote, there was rampant press speculation that Cameron was headed for defeat, and some papers predicted that as many as 150 Tory MPs could defy Cameron and vote for the Loughton amendment.
In a bid to steal the rebels’ thunder, Culture Secretary Maria Miller tabled an amendment of her own that would provide for a comprehensive review of the Civil Partnerships Act 2004. Increasingly worried Tory whips repeatedly asked Labour to support their amendment, and at the eleventh hour, Labour leader Ed Miliband agreed to vote against the Loughton amendment in exchange for a commitment to begin the review as soon as possible.
The Loughton amendment was ultimately defeated by a vote of 375 to 70, while the government’s amendment passed 391 to 57. The Labour amendment regarding the timing of the review was subsequently agreed to without a division.
Image credit: David Cameron via Facebook