THERE was a mixture of delight and disappointment in Swindon after the House of Commons backed Govern-ment proposals to allow gay marriage in England and Wales.
The Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill would enable same-sex couples to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies where a religious institution had formally consented.
The Church of England and Church in Wales would be banned from offering same-sex marriages as they had ‘explicitly stated’ strong opposition to offering same-sex ceremonies, but other religious organisations would be able to opt in.
MPs voted in favour by 400 to 175 – a majority of 225. The decision to back the Bill at second reading signifies that they approve it in principle, but the legislation will now receive more detailed Parliamentary scrutiny before becoming law – and could still be scrapped.
Robert Buckland, Swindon South MP, opposed the Bill, saying that although he favoured all other equality measures, he believed that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.
He said: “I’m disappointed that the Bill passed, but I have to accept that a majority voted for the bill and I’m a democrat like anybody else.
“I think now it’s important that if this legislation is to be passed, that it’s as workable as possible and it’s a job I think of all Parliamentarians to make sure this is the case.
“So although the vote was a fully clear and decisive majority, I do think there are detailed issues that need to be addressed by the Government about the effect of this legislation upon churches and other denominations, and also the effect upon civil partnerships and civil marriage.”
Justin Tomlinson, Swindon North MP, backed the Bill on the basis that individual churches should be able to make their own decisions, but he was unavailable yesterday for comment.
The Bill was also supported by the Reverend Mark Paris-Haines, 33, of central Swindon, a priest of the United Old Catholic Church, who was joined with his partner Christopher Haines, 26, in a civil partnership at the Mailcoach pub, in Fleet Street, in 2011.
He said: “I’m quite excited about it and I think it’s long overdue to be quite honest with you. “I think it will go through, I really do. I did see the Prime Minister’s announcement about this bill and that it’s going to make the community stronger and I totally agree with him 100 per cent.”
Rev Paris-Haines said he had already received requests from couples wanting to get married in church, but he had to explain to them that the Bill is not law yet.
And council leader Rod Bluh, who has been is a same-sex relationship for 10 years, following 22 years of marriage to a woman, said: “I’m absolutely delighted it’s gone through. “I’m gay myself but it’s not really to do with it.
“To me it’s an issue of basic equality and my view rightly or wrongly has been the churches aren’t affected by this because they aren’t being forced to do anything against their consciences.
“If you have got people wanting to make a commitment to each other, it shouldn’t matter whether you are same-sex or not.”