Early this afternoon a motion was successfully defeated in the House of Lords which would have banned the celebration of civil partnerships in religious premises. The ‘wrecking motion’ was introduced by Conservative peer Baroness O’Cathain. It would have meant that the ‘Alli amendment’ that Stonewall secured to the 2010 Equality Act last spring would have been scrapped. However, significant demonstrations of support for Stonewall’s position from across the House meant that Baroness O’Cathain withdrew her motion moments before a vote was due to be called.
Ben Summerskill, Stonewall Chief Executive, said: ‘Christmas has come early for equality. We’re delighted that a campaign of misinformation surrounding this issue has today been seen off by the House of Lords. Although only a small number of devout lesbian and gay people will benefit, at Stonewall we will always stand up for minority groups – whether of faith or anything else – within our community. This was an important issue of religious freedom.
‘Today’s debate reminds us that there are still vocal opponents of equality for the 3.7 million people in this country who happen to be gay. We trust that Baroness O’Cathain and her supporters will now have a little more free time during which to celebrate the second most important festival in the Christian calendar.’
The ‘Alli amendment’, section 202 of the new Equality Act, is entirely permissive. Contrary to claims made by opponents of equality during today’s debate, it will only apply to denominations such as the Quakers, the Unitarians and Liberal Judaism which have chosen to host civil partnership ceremonies. The first ceremonies are expected to take place early in the new year.