British lawmakers vote in favour of gay marriage
London: Britain moved a step closer to legalizing same-sex marriage on Tuesday with an overwhelming majority of the lawmakers in the House of Commons voting in the favour of the legislation.
The gay marriage bill still needs to go through a series of parliamentary debates and an approval by the unelected House of Lords before it morphs into a law.
The vote in the House of Commons — 400 to 175 in support of the proposed legislation – was a qualified victory for PM David Cameron.
A relieved Cameron acknowledged that "strong views exist on both sides," but said the result was a "step forward for our country."
The bill if approved would come to effect in 2015 and enable same-sex couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies, provided the religious institution consents. The bill also lets couples who had previously entered into civil partnerships convert their relationship into a marriage.
Officials have stressed that all religious organizations can decide for themselves if they want to "opt in" to holding gay weddings. However, the Church of England, the country`s official faith, is barred from performing such ceremonies.
That provision aims to ensure that the Church, which opposes gay marriage, is protected from legal claims that as the official state religion it must marry anyone who requests it.
Currently, same-sex couples only have the option of a civil partnership, which offers the same legal rights and protections on issues such as inheritance, pensions, and child maintenance.
Supporters say that gay relationships should be treated exactly the same way as heterosexual ones, but critics worry that the proposals would change long-standing views about the meaning of marriage.
With Agency Inputs
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