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UK Government pleads with Labour to save gay marriage bill

Government pleads with Labour to save gay marriage bill

Tory rebellion on amendment to grant civil partnerships to heterosexual couples will 'cost £4bn and take two years'

Nicholas Watt, chief political correspondent; The Guardian, Monday 20 May 2013

Downing Street issued a stark warning that the bill to legalise gay marriage will run into grave trouble – and cost the taxpayer an extra £4bn – if the Labour party joins forces with Tory opponents to vote in favour of granting civil partnerships to heterosexual couples.

As David Cameron was accused by the Conservative Grassroots group of showing "utter contempt" for party activists by pressing ahead with plans to equalise marriage, Labour sources voiced fears that No 10 appeared to be trying to find ways of killing the bill.

The row erupted as No 10 braced itself for a loss of face as up to 150 Tory MPs prepare to show their opposition to the prime minister during a series of votes when the marriage (same sex couples) bill reaches its report stage in the Commons today.

At least two cabinet ministers – the environment secretary Owen Paterson and the Wales secretary David Jones – are prepared to vote for a series of amendments that would grant exemptions to teachers and registrars.

Chris Grayling, the justice secretary, and John Hayes, the prime minister's unofficial envoy to the Tory right, may also side with opponents of the bill during a series of votes, which are "free" – allowing MPs to vote with their consciences.

The government warned of three dangers to the bill if an amendment to grant civil partnerships to heterosexual couples is passed. It is being tabled by the former children's minister Tim Loughton who opposes gay marriage. A government source said the Loughton amendment would:

• Come with a price tag of £4bn. Steve Webb, the pensions minister, told parliament's joint committee on human rights last week that the state would be liable for new "survivors'" pension rights.

• Delay the introduction of the entire bill by 18 to 24 months because the government would need to work on the joint implementation of new rights for gay married couples and heterosexual couples in new civil partnerships.

• Complicate the government's argument that the changes are about strengthening the institution of marriage by opening it to all couples. "If you open up civil partnerships to opposite sex couples then the institution of marriage will be weakened," one government source said. "The church will not be happy about that."

Government sources said the warnings were aimed at Ed Miliband, Labour's leader, whose support for the amendment will be decisive. One source said: "Ed Miliband clearly wants to make political capital here. Perhaps he should think of the consequences."

But Labour rejected what it called the "farcical" warnings, as sources noted that the supposed size of the "price tag" had grown from £3bn to £4bn in five days. One source said: "They are wrecking this bill themselves and trying to blame others."

Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary and shadow equalities minister, who has been negotiating with the equalities minister Maria Miller, told Sky News: "I think it's a real problem if this gets lost in the vortex of the Tory infighting that we had over the last couple of weeks when actually it's a really positive bill that we should all want to celebrate."

by Anonymousreply 2605/22/2013

Loughton accused the government of scaremongering after issuing its warnings about the dangers posed by his amendment. The former minister told the Guardian: "This scaremongering just won't wash. The government has come up with a lot of desperate last-minute excuses as to why giving full equality of civil partnerships will not work. This is what comes when you try to redefine marriage without having thought through the consequences. One of those consequences is that the majority of the population and MPs clearly want equality for civil partnerships. The government bill, as it stands, will deny them that equality. So they need urgently to do the work to make it happen." Last night Loughton tweeted: "£4bn is back of fag packet scaremongering particularly if Govt doubt straight couples want civil partnership."

The anger over the bill was highlighted when 35 current and former heads of Tory associations delivered a letter to No 10 lambasting Cameron. They wrote: "Your proposal to redefine marriage is flawed, un-Conservative, divisive and costing us dearly in votes and membership.

"You have failed to listen and respond in an appropriate manner to the concerns of loyal grassroots members...This utter contempt for ordinary people has led to a mass exodus of members and mass loss of supporters."The PM came under fire from another wing of the party when Lord Howe of Aberavon, the former chancellor, warned he appeared to be "losing control of his party". In an Observer article Howe wrote: "If the Conservative party is losing its head, a heavy responsibility now rests with Labour and the Liberal Democrats to hold their nerve."

Sir Richard Branson on Monday joins a group of 19 business leaders describing the economic case for British membership of the EU as "overwhelming". In a letter to the Independent, they write: "The benefits of membership overwhelmingly outweigh the costs, and to suggest otherwise is putting politics before economics."

by Anonymousreply 105/19/2013

I say let the bill be defeated. Cameron has stuck his neck out while lazy and lethargic UK gays have failed to rise up to his defense and the defense of their own rights. They should have been bombarding the media, marching in the streets, and making arguments against antigay Tories. The antigay side has outsmarted British gays at every turn on this issue, relentless and zealously. British gays seem to still be yawning at this late hour. Cameron has been heroic, but he can't do it all.

by Anonymousreply 205/19/2013

R2 I agree. If the lazy, stupid British gays don't want to fight for their rights and expect Cameron to do all the work, they don't deserve gay marriage. I've never seen such a lazy group of gays. You never see them protesting or marching. They're such doormats.

by Anonymousreply 305/19/2013

By Tim Ross, Political Correspondent12:01AM BST 20 May 2013 David Cameron is facing the prospect of defeat in the Commons over his plans to legalise gay marriage. More than 100 Conservatives are said to be ready to back a “wrecking” amendment to the same-sex marriage Bill that could cost the Treasury £4  billion. If enough Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs also support the amendment – which would open up civil partnerships to heterosexual couples for the first time – then Mr Cameron's plans will be in jeopardy. The amendment, proposed by Tim Loughton, a former Tory minister who opposes same-sex marriage, will be backed by many Labour MPs, opposition sources said. The Liberal Democrats are known to support such a reform. Related Articles Why I am convinced this is the right thing to do 20 May 2013 Gay marriage could stop Christians becoming teachers or doctors - church leaders 19 May 2013 Gay marriage: extra protection for Army chaplains 14 May 2013 Gay couples will be allowed to marry under Coalition plan 17 Feb 2011 Civil partners less likely than married couples to 'divorce' 22 Sep 2011 Muslims and Sikhs attack PM's gay marriage plan 19 Mar 2012 However, Downing Street sources warned yesterday that the Prime Minister would not support extending civil partnerships beyond their current application because he believed marriage was the best way to recognise commitment in relationships. Other government sources suggested that extending civil partnerships would hit the Treasury with an extra £4 billion in pension liabilities. Senior Tories have urged their colleagues to support the law when the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill returns to the Commons today for the report stage and third reading. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, describes in The Daily Telegraph today how the death of his gay brother from Aids convinced him to support moves to legalise marriage for same-sex couples. He says his views were shaped by the death of his brother Charles in 1993, when “society was a far less accepting place for gay men such as him”. However, Mr Maude’s view is fiercely opposed by many of his Conservative colleagues who take a traditionalist and often Christian view of marriage. It is understood that Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, is strongly likely to vote for amendments tabled by the Tory MP David Burrowes, intended to prevent the “erosion of traditional marriage”. MPs and ministers are being given a free vote and will not be required to follow party instructions because it is seen as an issue of conscience. Mr Loughton’s amendment to the Bill extending civil partnerships to heterosexuals for the first time is believed to be gathering considerable support. Some believe that if his amendment is passed, ministers may be forced to abandon the Bill entirely. Helen Grant, the justice and equalities minister, said such a radical change must not be introduced in a “rush”. She added that civil partnerships should be reviewed once gay marriages had been operating for five years. An informal group of church leaders, warn today that hundreds of thousands of Christian young people will be put off becoming teachers, doctors, nurses or other public servants once gay marriage becomes law. In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, they call on MPs to make urgent amendments to the Bill to protect Christians and others with traditional views from being punished in the workplace for their beliefs.

by Anonymousreply 405/19/2013

Gay Brits have said for more than a decade now that civil unions are the same as marriage, thus it's enough. They've been militant about this too. After they saw what happened in New York City, suddenly there was an outpouring of "we want gay marriage" chants. They're very trusting of the government, and are as a whole, they're sheep. They were told that civil unions were the same as marriage, so accept it and move on. They did. They could never understand why gay Americans were so caught up in this issue. They never got the whole separate-but-equal issue. At least in the US you have a very angry opposition (not just talking about those in office). The UK is more laid back. There will never be an ACLU there.

They have Stonewall. They don't even know the story behind it, nor that it's an American revolution. They're not a fighting bunch when it comes to civil liberties.

Anyway -- they shouted that civil unions were enough, then there you have it.

by Anonymousreply 505/20/2013

Yeah, even in places like Venezuela, Colombia, and Chile you have gays and progressives marching, rallying, organizing, and demanding marriage equality. They get that this is about equality and justice.

by Anonymousreply 605/20/2013

Is this good or bad news?

by Anonymousreply 705/20/2013

[quote]Is this good or bad news?

Bad news for anyone with any sense. When a Prime Minister (especially a Tory of all people) is fighting for gay marriage, but the lazy British gays don't bother to help him out any by marching, protesting, contacting government officials, ect., then you've pretty much fucked yourself big time. They may as well just forget it now.

You snooze, you lose.

by Anonymousreply 805/20/2013

As with the NRA in the US, the victory goes to those who care enough to show up and show out over their issues. There is a shameful passion gap on this issue, with the antigay side kicking the butt of the gay community in how to put political pressure on government. Having gotten no backup from British gays and progressives, Cameron is at the breaking point. No one should blame him now for giving up.

by Anonymousreply 905/20/2013

Oh, why in the hell haven't Labour and Liberal Drms been making more noise for marriage equality too? I know the PM is Conservative, but Labour and Lib Dems could bolster the cause by shouting down and calling out antigay forces. They could even threaten to bring down government if marriage equality is not rammed through.

by Anonymousreply 1005/20/2013

David Cameron or Ed Miliband, which one would you do?

by Anonymousreply 1105/20/2013

It's evil gamesmanship from the Tories, but I happen to agree with the principle that both civil partnerships and marriage should be open to everyone.

Or do they plan to end civil partnerships for gays and replace with marriage for everyone? That doesn't seem fair to the millions of couples who would rather have something more flexible than marriage.

Of course, this also spells the end of the 'not-so-nasty-party' thing that Cameron successfully fooled people into believing. They're awful troglodytes and UKIP is even worse.

by Anonymousreply 1205/20/2013

Do you think the UKIP will get anywhere the next election, R12?

I wish Labour had a stronger leader. I wish Labour was more Labour, and not the weak thing that they have become.

by Anonymousreply 1305/20/2013

It's a measure of just how messy and convoluted the gay marriage debate has become that opponents of same-sex marriage will tonight vote for an amendment supported by Peter Tatchell. I thought Tatchell might back away from his support for heterosexual civil partnerships, given that it's inspired a "wrecking amendment" – but I should have known better. Tatchell (whom I know and like, while vigorously disagreeing with him on most subjects) does not abandon causes for political expediency. Here's his statement: "The Government’s decision to oppose the legalisation of civil partnerships for heterosexual couples is hugely disappointing. It is a sad betrayal of the principle of equality. Nevertheless, I hope a majority of MPs will rebel and next week vote for the parliamentary amendment to open up civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples. Every MP who supports straight equality should vote for the amendment." Blimey. Whatever happens, there will be tears before bedtime.

by Anonymousreply 1405/20/2013

So, Peter Tatchell supports a rightwing poison pill amendment that would kill marriage equality. What a disaster!

by Anonymousreply 1505/20/2013

sounds complicated

by Anonymousreply 1605/20/2013

This is uniquely British. It's not about the marriage equality bill, it's about the meltdown within the Tory party.

by Anonymousreply 1705/20/2013

We’re having a hectic day here at PinkNews with multiple options ahead for the Marriage (same-sex couples) Bill. Here’s where we are:-

Conservative opponents of same-sex marriage are backing an amendment originally tabled by Tim Loughton among others to introduce opposite sex civil partnerships. They are primarily backing straight civil partnerships to derail the bill but many Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs support opening up civil partnerships to all couples.

Maria Miller, the Minister for Equality has proposed an amendment that would review the position of civil partnerships in five years. It is possible that the Government could decide then to abolish them completely (because few same-sex couples were still having them) or allow all couples to choose between the two forms of union. Conservative MPs are being urged to back this amendment.

Labour has proposed a manuscript amendment to Maria Miller’s amendment that would mean the Government opens up a consultation on straight civil partnerships. Yvette Cooper has said that this could take place before the legislative progress for the current bill is complete. Some Tory MPs who support equal marriage have told PinkNews that they will support this amendment. A senior Government source said that it was ‘relaxed’ about an immediate consultation.

Labour’s amendment can only be considered if Maria Miller’s amendment is passed first. Meanwhile Labour sources are telling PinkNews that they will only oppose Tim Loughton’s amendment (rather than abstain) if David Cameron and other Conservative supporters of equality back their amendment.

There is another alternative being suggested by MPs to PinkNews, that the Government ‘negotiates’ with Labour to agree a timetable for a consultation or a review of civil partnerships.

Downing Street has told PinkNews that David Cameron will make sure that the legislative progress continues after tonight’s votes, whatever the outcome. We were originally told that a decision on how to progress will be taken tonight, after the vote.

A vote on the opposite sex couples civil partnership amendments is likely at around 10pm.

by Anonymousreply 1805/20/2013

Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says he will not allow Tory opponents to succeed in wrecking the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

Three Tory MPs who are against marriage rights for gay couples – Tim Loughton, Charlotte Leslie and Rob Wilson – are pushing for civil partnerships to be an option for heterosexual couples in an amendment which has widespread support from both supporters and detractors of equality.

However, some in Westminster fear the amendment is an attempt to “wreck the bill” because it could delay its passage beyond the 2015 general election.

Earlier, Culture Secretary and Minister for Equalities, Maria Miller, warned that the amendment was a “complicated distraction”.

Mr Clegg said it was Lib Dem policy that civil partnerships should be available to heterosexual couples but said he would not back amendments that would derail the bill.

Speaking at a Nacro event in London, he said: “The bottom line is I will do whatever I judge is best to safeguard the bill and to make sure it doesn’t become hijacked by those whose ulterior motive is actually to discredit or to derail the legislation.”

He added: “In principle this is something we have long supported but I don’t want to lose the wood for the trees. I want this bill to be passed and for the bill to do what it says on the tin which is to provide equal rights to marriage for same sex couples and that will be my overriding objective.”

The bill will be debated from Monday, with its third reading on Tuesday. If approved, it will go to the House of Lords on Wednesday.

Liberal Democrat leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told PinkNews last December that he was hopeful the first same-sex marriages would be able to take place by the summer of 2013.

But on Monday, Maria Miller stated that the eventual date for this would be “next summer”.

by Anonymousreply 1905/20/2013

Gay marriage bill survives after Ed Miliband votes against amendment

Labour leader votes against amendment extending civil partnerships to heterosexual couples after appeal by Tory whips

Nicholas Watt Chief political correspondent; guardian.co.uk, Monday 20 May 2013 23.18 BST

The gay marriage bill has been saved after Ed Miliband agreed at the last minute to vote against an amendment to extend civil partnerships to heterosexual couples that had prompted government warnings that it would derail the entire measure.

The Labour leader, who had planned to abstain in a Commons vote on the amendment, agreed to change tack after the government chief whip Sir George Young sent a message to his opposition counterparts that the Tory leadership was facing defeat.

The move meant that the amendment, tabled by the anti-gay marriage Tory, former children's minister Tim Loughton, was defeated by 375 to 70 votes, a majority of 305.

The decision by the Labour leadership, which has gone from supporting the amendment on civil partnerships to rejecting it within the space of 24 hours, means that the marriage (same-sex couples) bill will now experience a safer journey through parliament.

The government had warned earlier in the day that the Loughton amendment would have threatened the entire bill by adding £4bn to the costs and delaying its implementation. The costs would have come from increased pension survivor rates for new civil partners.

Labour sources said that the party, which had announced earlier in the day that it would abstain on the Loughton amendment after overnight warnings from the government about the threat to bill, denied that Miliband had embarked on a double U-turn.

One source said: "We had an eleventh hour appeal from the government that they did not have the numbers to defeat the Tim Loughton amendment. They made repeated approaches to us at ever increasing levels.

"Ed's overriding priority is to ensure that the bill gets on to the statute book. Ed and Yvette Cooper will therefore be voting against the Tim Loughton amendment. We expect a large number of MPs to join Ed and Yvette. Since there was a genuine threat to the bill Ed decided the best thing to do was to act in this way."

The appeal by Tory whips for Labour support to ensure the safety of the bill highlighted deep divisions in the Conservative party in the wake of claims that a senior member of his entourage described party activists as "swivel-eyed". Lord Feldman, the Tory co-chairman, denied making the remarks.

More than 100 Tory MPs planned to register their opposition to the marriage (same-sex couples) bill by voting in favour of a series of amendments to water down the measure. In the first vote of the evening, more than 150 MPs voted in favour of an amendment that would allow registrars to refuse to perform same-sex ceremonies.

Tory opponents of the bill were alarmed when Labour and the Tories embarked on negotiations during the day. The government agreed during the day to a Labour request to amend its own plans by launching an immediate review into extending civil partnerships to heterosexual couples.

Maria Miller, the equalities minister, agreed to the Labour request. But she suggested that the review could lead to the end of civil partnerships when she said the review will see "if there is a demand for [civil partnerships]".

The deal meant that the government amendment, altered by Labour, was approved by 391 to 57 votes, a majority of 334.

But Labour initially said that it would abstain on the Loughton amendment on the grounds that it agreed with it but did not want to risk the overall bill.

The leaders of all the main parties offered all their MPs, including ministers and shadow ministers, a free votes on the grounds that marriage is a "conscience" social issue in which the party whips have no official say. But the prime minister devoted government time to the gay marriage legislation in the belief that it would help reach out to centre ground voters who may feel uncomfortable about supporting a party whose leader voted in favour of the retention of section 28 as recently as ten years ago.

The divisions among Tories was highlighted when Sir Gerald Howarth, knighted on the advice of the prime minister last year when he sacked him as a defence minister, warned of an "aggressive homosexual community" during a clash with a member of Cameron's policy board. Howarth made the remarks when Margot James, a fellow Tory MP who is in a civil partnership and who was recently appointed to the new Conservative policy board, said that the equal marriage legislation would level the playing field after gay people suffered discrimination in the 1980s.

Howarth replied: "I warn you, and MPs on all sides of the house, that I fear that the playing field has not been levelled. I believe that the pendulum is now swinging so far the other way and there are plenty in the aggressive homosexual community who see this as but a stepping stone to something even further."

by Anonymousreply 2005/20/2013

What's all this back and forth, back and forth? They just keep running around in circles going nowhere.

by Anonymousreply 2105/20/2013

Oh shut up R8, you stupid anti-Brit troll. Always applying your American sensibilities to a culture of which you have no understanding.

At least we're getting a cinematic release of Beyond The Candlelabra - a film they won't even dare to release in cinemas in your HOMOPHOBIC cuntry.

by Anonymousreply 2205/20/2013

Gee, where's the anti-Brit troll to talk about how same-sex couples got fucked out of the immigration bill yesterday? All of your precious Democrats folded on the ammendment to offer U.S. gays the means to apply for a green card for their foreign national partner. Why weren't all the American gays marching in support of the ammendment, bombarding their lawmakers with phone calls? I guess American gays are just lazy, huh?

by Anonymousreply 2305/22/2013

r23 It was a choice made by the democrats so dlers won't care.

by Anonymousreply 2405/22/2013

R22/R23 There you Brits go jumping to conclusions again. How do you know the posts you're bitching about are from Americans? People from all around the world post here you know.

by Anonymousreply 2505/22/2013

Yeah, R25? Before jumping to your own conclusions...I'm an American abroad.

The Anti-Brit troll is clearly American because they always apply an American sensibility to a foreign culture of which they have no understanding.

by Anonymousreply 2605/22/2013
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