The lower house of the British parliament approved the final changes to a bill that will see gay-marriage leaglised in England and Wales.
While he bill had the support of two of Britain’s major political parties, it had caused a split in Prime Minister David Cameron’s ruling conservative Party.
Many of Cameron’s own party lawmakers criticised the leader for being too liberal, with ministers voting twice against the proposed bill.
After a long two-hour debate the House of Common passed the bill, which will now undergo royal formality and await approval by Queen Elizabeth before becoming legal.
Once approved, the first same-sex marriages could take place as early as summer next year. Religious organizations will be free to ‘opt in’ to offering same-sex marriages, under the terms of The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. The Church of England and Church in Wales being the only exception, having been banned in law from doing so.
“The title of this bill might be ‘Marriage’, but its fabric is about freedom and respect,” said Maria Miller, Britain’s Culture Secretary, adding that traditionalists should not feel their concept of marriage had been undermined.
“Freedom to marry regardless of sexuality or gender, but also freedom to believe that marriage should be of one man and one woman, and not be marginalised,” she added.
But opponents of the bill accused supporters of ‘bulldozing’ the proposal through both houses, after a majority of voters from the ruling conservative party voted against it.
Many of the opposing ministers said their Christina beliefs had led them to disagree with same-sex unions. Political analysts believe the new legislation, personally endorsed by Prime Minister Cameron, was a way for the leader to show his progressive credentials as a party leader.