The bill would legalize marriage for same-sex couples in England and Wales.
Amendments intended to weaken the bill were rejected by wide margins, including an amendment (New Clause 3) that would have allowed marriage registrars to refuse to conduct same-sex marriages if the registrar objected based on “sincerely held religious or other beliefs”. NC3 was rejected 340 to 150.
Friendly amendments passed, including Amendment 23 which “protects ministers of religion employed by secular organisations (eg as hospital or university chaplains) who refuse to carry out same sex marriages from claims being made against them personally under the employment provisions of the Equality Act 2010″, and Amendment 24 which “requires, rather than (as the Bill does at present) allows, the Lord Chancellor to make an order enabling the Church in Wales to marry same sex couples, if he is satisfied that the Church has resolved to do so,” according to LGBTory.
Considerable debate was dedicated to amendments related to Civil Partnerships. New Clause 16, which commits the Government to undertake a prompt, formal review of Civil Partnerships after same-sex marriage is legalized, passed 391 to 57. New Clause 10, which would have extended Civil Partnerships to opposite-sex couples immediately, was rejected 375 to 70. MPs opposing NC 10 expressed concern that its adoption could delay passage of the bill, or even be used to scuttle it.
In February, the bill was overwhelmingly approved during its Second Reading by a vote of 400 to 175. Tomorrow the House of Commons will consider additional amendments before taking the Third Reading (final) vote on the bill. If it passes, it will move to the House of Lords in two weeks.
Bill progress can be monitored here.
Update: A transcript of the May 20 debate can be found here.