Same Sex Marriage Bill passes Third Reading in Lords

The Third Reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was completed on 15 July and the Bill now passes to the Commons.  Business commenced with a procedural matter [1] whereby Baroness Anelay of St Johns announced to the House,

“I have it in command from Her Majesty the Queen to acquaint the House that Her Majesty, having been informed of the purport of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, has consented to place her interests, so far as they are affected by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament for the purposes of the Bill.”

As we suggested in our latest round-up, since all five Amendments on the Marshalled List had government approval, it was quite likely that they would be agreed.  This raises the question of the cost-effectiveness of the various protests that were organized, here, and elsewhere, although some appear to have accepted the political realities.

Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

Amendment 1, Baroness Stowell of Beeston

Government Amendments 1 to 5 address the concerns that had been raised in earlier debates in relation to occupational pension benefits. Under an extant provision in Schedule 9 to the Equality Act 2010, civil partners may not at present benefit from their civil partner or spouse’s pensionable service prior to 2005 in respect of any survivor benefit payable on the death of their civil partner or spouse.  By virtue of the provision made in Schedule 4 to this Bill, this exception would have been extended to people married to someone of the same sex.

After Clause 15, Amendment 1 inserts a new Clause which requires the Secretary of State to arrange for a review of occupational pension schemes  with regard to (a) relevant differences in survivor benefits; and (b) the costs, and other effects, of securing that relevant differences in survivor benefits are eliminated by the equalisation of survivor benefits, in relation to the matters identified in sub-paragraph 2.

The scope of the review is to include England, Wales and Scotland, and a report on the outcome of the review must be produced and published before 1 July 2014.  If the Secretary of State so decides, he/she may then by order make changes to the legislation for the purpose of eliminating or reducing relevant differences in survivor benefits.

The Amendment was supported by Lord Alli, the Lord Bishop of Norwich and other noble Lords, and in summing up Baroness Stowell of Beeston stated [15 July 2013  Col 545]

“we should celebrate and congratulate every gay couple who embarks on this special enterprise of shared endeavour in exactly the same way as we do straight couples, wishing them a long and happy life together, but knowing that that requires effort as well as the love and support of family and friends.”

and alluding to the continuing joke throughout the Lords considerations, said,

 “[a]s for me, I shall continue to wait for George Clooney before I give it a go myself.”

Amendment 1 agreed.

Clause 17 : Orders and regulations

Amendment 2, Baroness Stowell of Beeston

Amendment 2 agreed

Clause 19 : Extent

Amendment 3, Baroness Stowell of Beeston

Amendment 3 agreed

Clause 20 : Short title and commencement

Amendment 4, Baroness Stowell of Beeston

Amendment 4 agreed

In the Title

Amendment 5, Baroness Stowell of Beeston

Amendment 5 agreed

Motion

Baroness Stowell of Beeston moved the motion “That the Bill do now pass”.  Not all of their Lordships welcomed the Bill, but Lord Dear stated [15 July 2013 Col. 545]

“despite the serious doubts that some parts of our society harbour about the wisdom of the Bill, I—and I am sure I can speak on behalf of my supporters—fully recognise the parliamentary process and willingly accede to it. We all hope very sincerely that if passed by the House of Commons, the Bill will prove to be a success.”

Echoing the thoughts of Baroness Thornton, Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton thanked her colleagues around the House who have been involved in steering the Bill through, and in particular the Minister,

“who, if she does not get George Clooney, perhaps could be on her way to sainthood because of the patience she has shown during the passage of the Bill.”

Bill passed and returned to the Commons with amendments.


[1] Frank explains that this is Queen’s Consent which must be given to any Bill that affects the interests of the Crown. It is given on third reading if the interest is fairly marginal interest and on second reading if it is fundamental (e.g. on the Succession to the Crown Bill).