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British gay marriage bill passes first vote
Britain’s House of Commons has voted overwhelmingly in favour of a gay marriage bill after more than six hours of debate.
The vote of 400 to 175 saw more than half of Conservative Party MPs choose to either oppose marriage equality or abstain.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has face internal division within his own party over his plans to legalise same-sex marriage in recent months.
During debate, gay marriage opponents claimed the bill would take the country in “Alice in Wonderland territory” was “Orwellian” and raised the spectre of bigamy and polygamy.
In a particularly incendiary speech, Conservative Stewart Jackson said he was personally offended by implications that opponents of gay civil rights were similar to those who opposed civil rights for African-American in the 1950s.
He went on to compare himself to Rosa Parks being pushed to the back of the bus and also asked how gay marriage will be consumated.
The legislation now goes to committee before further votes in Parliament.
The government committed to introducing marriage equality legislation in September 2011, promising it would be enacted before the next general election in 2015.
A public consultation took place last year on how to make civil marriages available to same-sex couples.
More than 50 percent of UK residents supported marriage equality, the consultation found, with 53 percent of respondents in favour.
Religious institutions that do not wish to marry same-sex couples will not have to do so under the new laws.
The country’s Equality Act 2010 will be amended to ensure that no discrimination claim could be brought against religious organisations or individual ministers for refusing to marry same-sex couples, or for their refusal to let their premises be used for a same-sex marriage ceremony.
The bill will also make it illegal for the Church of England and the Church of Wales to marry gay couples, or to opt-in to do so without a further law changes, after their strong opposition to the reforms.