Cameron in London. (AFP)
London, Feb. 6: Old fashioned Indian immigrants who still think marriage is the kind of romantic bonding that
takes place between, say, Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan had a rude shock yesterday when the Commons, led by prime minister David Cameron, voted overwhelmingly to legalise same sex marriage.
By 400 votes to 175, MPs voted to give man-man or woman-woman marriages legally the same status as a heterosexual man-woman wedding.
This means invitation cards addressed to “Mrs and Mrs” can also be sent to “Mr and Mr” or “Miss and Miss” or “Mrs and Mrs” or “Ms and Ms” or “Mrs and Ms”.
The Conservative party tore itself in half, with 136 voting against same sex marriage and 127 for the Bill which was passed only because of Labour and Lib Dem support. 40 Tories took advantage of a “free vote” to abstain.
Last night, the reforming prime minister went on Twitter to say: “Strong views exist on both sides but I believe MPs voting for gay people being able to marry too, is a step forward for our country.”
Britain has certainly come a long way since homosexuality between consenting adults was decriminalised in 1967 — the age of consent has dropped from 21 then to 16 now. But the gay lobby was not satisfied with “civil partnerships” but wanted “same sex marriage” to be made legal — a momentous step.
“Frankly, I am a marriage man,” Cameron insisted today. “I am a great supporter of marriage — I want to promote marriage, defend marriage, encourage marriage. The great thing about last night’s vote is that two gay people who love each other will now be able to get married, and I think that is an important advance.”
He added: “I think we should be promoting marriage, rather than looking at any other way of weakening it.”
There was no shortage of passionate opponents, though, in last night's Commons debate. Former defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth said that the government had no mandate for such a “massive social and cultural change”, which was not mentioned in the Conservative manifesto for the 2010 election.
Tory John Glen (Salisbury) questioned the politics of the move: “By a factor of a least 30 to one my constituents have expressed their opposition to this.”
Former minister Edward Leigh said the plans were an affront to many traditional Conservatives. “We should be in the business of protecting cherished institutions and our cultural heritage otherwise what, I ask, is a Conservative Party for? Indeed we are alienating people who have voted for us for all their lives, leaving them with no one to vote for.”
If all this was not unsettling enough for traditionalists, then the institution of conventional marriage suffered another setback with that between a senior politician, Chris Huhne, and his wife of 26 years, Vicky Pryce, coming apart publicly in spectacular fashion. Observers, shell shocked by turn of events in the Commons, likened the Huhne-Pryce breakup to watching a terrible car crash in slow motion.
Anyone who assumed that a marriage invariably brings happiness to husband and wife will rapidly amend their views after the alacrity with which Pryce, a senior government economist, plotted the downfall of her husband. This was after Huhne, an ambitious Lib Dem who was the energy secretary in the coalition government, was foolish enough to dump his wife for his press officer, Carina Trimingham.
The trouble began 10 years ago when cameras picked up Huhne speeding in his car but instead of owning up, he persuaded/bullied/forced (depending on which version is believed) his wife to say she was driving and accept the penalty points, thereby saving her husband a possible driving ban and political embarrassment.