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UK gay marriage bill passes House of Commons

The UK's gay marriage bill passed the House of Commons on Tuesday, by a vote of 366 to 161. It was saved Monday by Ed Miliband when the Labour party leader stopped an attempt by Prime Minister David Cameron's own MPs to defeat it.

Gay rights 2013 3 27Enlarge
People hold a giant rainbow flag during a demonstration to support gay marriage and adoption in Lyon, France. (AFP/Getty Images)

LONDON, UK — The UK's gay marriage bill passed the House of Commons on Tuesday, by a vote of 366 to 161. It now goes before the House of Lords.

The bill was saved Monday by Ed Miliband when the Labour party leader stopped an attempt by Prime Minister David Cameron's own MPs to defeat it.

A last-minute plea by Tory chief whip Sir George Young to the Labour leadership prompted Miliband to change his mind, as he had been planning to abstain on the amendment of the bill.

The Labour party's change of heart allowed the amendment — tabled by anti-gay marriage Tory and former children's minister Tim Loughton — to be defeated 375-70, with a majority of 305. The bill can now travel safely through parliament on its way to its third and final reading in Commons Tuesday, before it heads to the House of Lords for more scrutiny.

The bill is not expected to receive any criticism on Tuesday, but Wednesday's vote in the House of Lords could face further objections and, if changes are made to it, they will have to be approved by MPs at a later date.

More from GlobalPost: Church of England objects to UK gay marriage plans

But the bill's late save wasn't the only headline-maker that came out of Monday night's Commons debate on the Marriage Bill.

Things got meme-y when Tory MP Sir Gerald Howarth got up in Commons to voice his fears that people opposed to same-sex marriage for religious reasons would feel persecuted under the bill.

Fellow Tory MP Margot James said gay rights legislation had "leveled the playing field" to ensure "outrageous verbal aggression" against gay people would stop, but Howarth thought that the attempt to level the playing field had gone too far.

"I warn her, I fear the playing field is not being leveled I believe the pendulum is swinging so far the other way, and there are plenty in the aggressive homosexual community who see this as but a stepping stone to something even further," he said.

Howarth’s comments delighted Twitter, where examples of such behavior began piling up under the hashtag #aggressivehomosexual.

"I shall not be content until bus lanes are made gays only lanes!" tweeted one "aggressive homosexual."

"I’m eating my bran flakes in a threatening and barbaric way at my desk,” threatened another.

Others suggested policy items for the homosexual community’s agenda, such as refusing to pay taxes until gay marriage is recognized – or making the outrageously camp Eurovision song contest a weekly event.

Then former Tory party chairman Norman Tebbit weighed in. In an interview with The Big Issue magazine, Lord Tebbit, 82, offered his own surprising postulations.

"When we have a queen who is a lesbian and she marries another lady and then decides she would like to have a child and someone donates sperm and she gives birth to a child, is that child heir to the throne?" Tebbit said, posing a question few others had thought to ask. “I said to a minister I know: have you thought this through?”

Though Tebbit’s friend may not have fully weighed the implications of a lesbian monarch, the internet was more than happy to do so.

Hours after Tebbit’s remarks surfaced, the hypothetical "lesbian queen" had her own Twitter account, HRHLesbian, with tweets like “Replacing the corgis with cats” and “One kissed a girl and one liked it."

Marriage between people of the same gender is not legal in England, though people who recall Elton John and David Furnish’s lavish ceremony in 2005 could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. The UK has offered civil partnerships to gay couples since 2005 that offer the same benefits and legal protections as marriage. 

Pro-marriage campaigners say that civil partnerships, which aren’t necessarily recognized everywhere outside of the UK, are discriminatory.

The bill says churches won’t be required to hold same-sex weddings – in fact, the state Church of England and Church in Wales will be legally barred from doing so.

Prime Minister David Cameron supports gay marriage and has had to fend off members of his own party who oppose the legislation.

Labour and Liberal Democrat lawmakers on Monday helped defeat a proposed Tory amendment offering civil partnerships to heterosexual couples that would likely have wrecked the bill.

Over the weekend, the Telegraph reported that an anonymous Tory official had called the party’s grassroots activists “mad, swivel-eyed loons.” The fury that erupted over this anonymous remark threw the Tories into chaos – apparently, “loon” is a fighting word in England.

UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage took advantage of the remark to invite disaffected Tories to his side. Cameron responded by sending a personal email to Tory MPs saying, “I am proud to lead this party. I am proud of what you do. And I would never have around me those who sneered or thought otherwise.”

It may be a bad week for Cameron – but it’s been a great week for Twitter.

As Labour activist Joe Dromey tweeted: “Who would win in a fight: a swivel-eyed loon or an aggressive homosexual?”
 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/united-kingdom/130521/uk-gay-marriage-bill-saved-labour-party