Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 – summary and timeline

Summary & timeline: Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013

The Government’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill received Royal Assent on 17th July 2013, having been passed by both Houses of Parliament.

The Bill followed a Government consultation in 2012. The Church of England made a formal response to that consultation in June 2012 and accompanied it with a press release. In December 2012 the Government published a summary of responses to the consultation, alongside its own response.

The Church of England then issued a further note, following on from the Secretary of State’s announcement in December 2012 of the Government’s plan to legislate, which can be found here.

A briefing paper for MPs prior to the House of Commons Second Reading debate of the Bill in February 2013 can be read here. A further briefing for MPs prior to the House of Commons Report Stage and Third Reading debates of the Bill can be read here.

The Bill moved to the House of Lords in May 2013. The Church of England issued a briefing for Peers prior to the Second Reading debate of the Bill in the Lords on 3rd June 2013, which can be read here.

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishops of LeicesterChester and Exeter spoke in the House of Lords Second Reading debate on 3rd June. On 4th June Peers voted on an amendment that would have stopped the Bill proceeding further. Nine Lords Spiritual voted for the amendment and five abstained. The vote on the amendment not to allow the Bill to proceed was however defeated by a large majority (390 to 148 votes).

Following this debate and vote, the Convenor of the Lords Spiritual, the Bishop of Leicester, released a statement, which included the following:

“Both Houses of Parliament have now expressed a clear view by large majorities on the principle that there should be legislation to enable same-sex marriages to take place in England and Wales. It is now the duty and responsibility of the Bishops who sit in the House of Lords to recognise the implications of this decision and to join with other Members in the task of considering how this legislation can be put into better shape.”

During the Committee and Report stages of the Bill in the Lords a number of bishops contributed to the scrutiny of the Bill, tabling amendments and speaking in favour of others. In most cases however the majorities in the House were against the changes proposed by the bishops.

  • The Archbishop of York raised questions about whether the definition of all marriages must change in order to accommodate the desire of same-sex couples to marry.
  • The Bishops of Ripon and Leeds and Leicester sought assurances that schools of a religious character, including Church of England schools, would have legal clarity about the teaching of marriage according to the tenets of the faith.
  • The Bishop of Leicester also argued for measures to support freedom of speech for those who continue to hold and express a belief about traditional marriage.
  • The Bishop of Hereford supported attempts to enable civil marriage registrars who have a conscientious belief in traditional marriage to have that properly accommodated in the workplace.
  • The Bishop of Guildford raised questions and concerns about the place of fidelity and the position of children in relation to parents in same-sex marriages.
  • Bishops also spoke on the questions of Humanist weddings, the equalisation of pension/ survivor benefits and the future shape of civil partnerships.
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