Britain has taken a historic step towards full equality for gay people as MPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of equal marriage.
400 MPs had voted in favour of the bill, with 175 voting against.
Oliver Colvile (Con, Plymouth Sutton and Devonport), Sarah Wollaston (Con, Totnes), Adrian Sanders (Torbay), Ben Bradshaw (Lab, Exeter), and Alison Seabeck (Lab, Plymouth Moor View) supported the legislation.
Sarah Wollaston reported that her postbag suggested opposition to the reform was based on “prejudice that needs to be confronted… I think there will be a lot of MPs who will be proved to be on the wrong side of the argument”.
Voting against the Bill was Anne Marie Morris (Con, Newton Abbot).
Committed Christian, Gary Streeter (Con, Devon South West) didn’t vote as he was chairing the Bill through the committee stages and cannot give a public view or vote on it. Yet, he is understood to be against the Bill ‘as it was not in the party manifesto’.
The bill is now likely to reach the statute book, assuming it has a safe passage through the Lords, after support from Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs ensured it got an overwhelming second reading.
However, the 225-vote majority has caused problems for the prime minister as more than half of the parliamentary Tory party declined to support the government.
Responses to the vote have predictably been mixed.
Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of Stonewall, said: “As the last piece of the legislative jigsaw providing equality for gay people in Britain, this is a truly historic step forward.
“Most people in Britain support equal marriage and will be delighted that we’re now a step closer to it. We’re grateful to the thousands of Stonewall supporters, many of them straight, who played a big part by contacting their MPs in support.”
On the other hand, Colin Hart, campaign director of the anti-equal marriage group Coalition for Marriage, said: “The scale of the opposition against the government’s profoundly undemocratic plans is astonishing, and sends a clear message to the prime minister that he faces a lengthy and damaging battle to redefine marriage.”
The Roman Catholic Church made clear that it would maintain its campaign against same-sex marriage. The Most Reverend Peter Smith, Archbishop of Southwark, said: “The Catholic Church continues to support marriage understood by society for centuries as the significant and unique lifelong commitment between a man and a woman for their mutual well-being and open to the procreation and education of children. Marriage is rooted in the complementarity of man and woman.”
Some commentators have concluded that the failure of faith groups to resist same-sex marriage further indicates the weakening of religious influence in Britain.