Huge gay marriage victory in the UK Parliament

The Brits have an awfully confusing democracy. So I’ve asked an anonymous British friend to explain the quirks, and what it means that Parliament today just voted 400-175 for gay marriage in its “second reading” in the House of Commons.

In a nutshell, he says we’re 98% of the way there towards winning marriage equality in the UK:

Before becoming a law, a bill goes thru these stages:

1st reading – effectively announcing that the bill has been published.

2nd reading – at which a substantive debate takes place on the principles underpinning the proposed law; a yes vote at this stage typically means that the bill will become law in a form somewhat close to the draft.

Committee Stage – a small committee of members of Parliament reviews the law, makes amendments; typically this is where bad drafting is fixed but also where lobbying really makes a difference.

Lords stage – the House of Lords votes on the Bill and sometimes has its own committees. If they vote no, the Bill goes back to the Commons. The Commons can insist on their own version and overrule the Lords but it’s a big pain to do it.

3rd Reading – once the Lords’ have passed the bill, the Commons votes one last time on the final amended version.

The shorter answer to your Q is that there is 98% chance of marriage equality happening – what is left to be argued over is how the law is implemented, how religious institutions are affected, tidying up how divorce law impacts gay married couples, etc. There will be a small number of attempts to amend the law, but on the whole this vote means the big fight is won.

I am totally guessing, but I’d say this will be law in late-September.

British Parliament via Shutterstock

British Parliament via Shutterstock

Brit friend added the following, and I thought he was joking:

Also, once it is law, a representative of the Queen reads out to Parliament that she has approved the law in Norman French, dating from the 1100s. Cool huh.

I asked him, surely he was joking? Apparently not. Via Wikipedia:

The Clerk of the Parliaments, an official of the House of Lords, traditionally states a formula in Anglo-Norman Law French indicating the Sovereign’s decision. The granting of the Royal Assent to a supply bill is indicated with the words La Reyne remercie ses bons sujets, accepte leur benevolence, et ainsi le veult,[16] translated as “The Queen thanks her good subjects, accepts their bounty, and wills it so.” For other public or private bills, the formula is simply La Reyne le veult (the Queen wills it). For personal bills, the phrase was Soit fait comme il est désiré (let it be as it is desired). The appropriate formula for withholding Assent is the euphemistic La Reyne s’avisera (the Queen will consider it). When the Sovereign is male, Le Roy is substituted for La Reyne.

I can’t think of a greater tribute to a gay rights law than a queen speaking ancient French.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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23 Responses to “Huge gay marriage victory in the UK Parliament”

  1. Stev84 says:

    Not every bishop becomes a lord for life. It’s a temporary job. Only the five biggest/most important dioceses and the next 21 most senior ones (determined by length of service as a bishop) become lords. Out of a total of 760 members.

  2. UncleBucky says:

    Ah, true. But if one studies Parisian French alone, one won’t be able to understand the local jargon and jokes, betcha. So my thought is to study the standard language for starters, but to explore localisms and try to speak with both accents, depending on circumstances. Thanks!

  3. yawn says:

    not really a small fringe of Tory opposition as more than half voted against equal marriage

  4. Phil says:

    Actually, even Haitian creole isn’t all that difficult to understand – but the spelling makes it exceedingly difficult to read.

    When I lived in Florida and was unemployed, I had to call the Unemployment office. The options were for English press 1, para Espanol, marque el 2, pour Creole, poussez 3. Well 1 got you the message “all lines are busy. Please try again later” (this was at the height of the recession). 2 got you the same response in Spanish (and my Spanish isn’t as good as my French). 3 got you an operator in a minute or two – there were a few messages to listen to, but I had an operator on the line in fairly short order, after a few sentences, we switched to English and I had my business taken care of very quickly.

    And they told me I was wasting my time studying French…….

  5. karmanot says:

    She is in her eighties I believe.

  6. bythesea says:

    Probably the French, I’d guess.

  7. bythesea says:

    Not much. There are hundreds of “Lords” with (IIRC) only 26 or so being Bishops.

  8. jomicur says:

    Isn’t Lords where they warehouse the bishops? Especially the older, more obviously useless ones? They’ve vote against equality; that’s a given. But how much trouble can they make by way of stalling the process?

  9. Zorba says:

    Yes, I have a friend who is French, who was born and raised in France, and she basically said the same thing. Parisians are not so accepting of Quebecois French speakers. She can understand and speak Quebecois French (and, in fact, even Louisiana Creole French, which is even farther away). But if you intend to visit France, you should speak Parisian French.

  10. BeccaM says:

    I wonder how difficult it is to become a British citizen…

  11. nicho says:

    Oddly, when I decided to study French, my friends in Montreal urged me to learn Parisian French. Their argument was that if you learn Parisian French, you will be accepted in Quebec, but if you learn Quebec French, you won’t be so accepted in Paris. A Quebecois friend was asked in France why he was speaking “18th century French.”

  12. nicho says:

    There is a good chance that the “ceremonial clerk” IS a queen.

  13. Craig Nelson says:

    The Queen never says it as she isn’t in parliament at the time; often it is done in the Commons by the Speaker reading out a list of bills that the Monarch has ‘signified royal assent to’. The fuller ceremony at the time the Parliament is ‘prorogued’ is rather wonderful and includes lots of Anglo-Norman, each Bill title being read out, a ceremonial clerk turning round, doffing his cap and saying “La rayne le veult”. Wonderful theatre I must say. I like these little touches.

  14. UncleBucky says:

    And how!

  15. UncleBucky says:

    This year’s project is learning to pronounce, understand and then to speak French. I can’t be sure whether I will pick Quebecois or Parisian French. And now a totally new variant, Ancient Norman French.

    FYI, there’s an interesting article on Law French:

    Another connundrum for students of English!

    Now we have Norman French to contend with! :D

  16. UncleBucky says:

    “I can’t think of a greater tribute to a gay rights law than a queen speaking ancient French.” What a cool comment, surely to annoy conservatards and cause heads to explode for GOP/TP/God Party. :D

  17. wingsonmyshoes says:

    Awkward moment when I realise I know more about American politics than that of my own country… but really glad this went through today. One of the first positive things the Tories have actually done! Even if the majority of the minority who voted against were Tory.

  18. nicho says:

    And NOM will still fight on — as long as they can hoover money from the pockets of the rubes.

  19. nicho says:

    No, but the problem is that we’re a colony of Goldman Sachs.

  20. S1AMER says:

    Cameron lost just over half the Tories on this one, which is a serious (though not mortal) wound for him. It is to his credit that he carried on with his marriage equality law, ’cause the Conservative whips undoubtedly knew how they’d far today.

    My question: Who actually starts marrying people first, the English and Welsh, or the French?

  21. AdmNaismith says:

    ‘I can’t think of a greater tribute to a gay rights law than a queen speaking ancient French.’


  22. MyrddinWilt says:

    The chances of a holdup in the Lords is pretty small these days. 20 years ago the Lords was still dominated by the hereditary peers and they tended to be in their 70s and Conservatives.

    Following reforms under Blair the hereditary peers were reduced to a few hundred and most of the peers are appointed. Most of the appointees tend to be political operators of some type or academics who have headed government committees. So Blair has had quite a while to redress the Tory bias.

    At this point it is pretty much a done deal and has been since the original civil marriage bill went through under Blair. It seemed to me at the time that there was a gentleman’s agreement that in return for not pushing for full marriage back then and forcing the Tory party leadership to have to try to whip in their bigot brigade, the Tories agreed to pass or let pass full marriage a short while later without a huge fuss.

    The opposition has come from a very small fringe of the Tory party who are all very much has-beens. Ann Widdecombe was upset that people might call her a bigot for being bigoted. But her political career is over and she was never a thought leader in the party in the party or a leadership contender. Major made her minister for prisons and she managed to become shadow Home Secretary but her chief value in those roles was that she wasn’t a leadership contender herself.

  23. Randy Riddle says:

    Is it too late to become a colony again?

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