From 29 March 2014 same-sex couples in England & Wales will be able to marry. This is an historic moment. For the first time children growing up to be lesbian, gay or bisexual in England & Wales will have full equality in law. We can now proudly claim to be a beacon to the world for lesbian, gay and bisexual equality.
This all became a reality because of a piece of law, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples Act) which was carried through parliament with support from across the Liberal Democrats, Labour, and Conservative parties. Along the way there were repeated attempts by well funded opponents to wreck the Bill and deny equality to loving, committed same-sex couples.
Click here to read the transcripts from the debates, or below to look at our overview of how it all happened:
On Tuesday 5 February 2013 the Bill received it's Second Reading in the House of Commons. This was the first chance MPs had to properly debate the bill and vote on its proposals. We were delighted that they voted overwhelmingly to support marriage equality, the final vote was 400 votes to 75, a majority of 225!
Following the vote, the Bill went into Committee, where a group of MPs heard individuals and groups give evidence about equal marriage, before proposing amendments to the Bill.
On 20 and 21 May the Bill reached its Report Stage where all MPs had another chance to debate specific parts of the bill and propose amendments.
At the end of the first day of Report stage the House of Commons rejected an amendment - by 375 votes to 70 - designed to wreck the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill. The amendment, tabled by vocal opponents of equality, would have resulted in significant delays to the Bill's implementation.
Third Reading of the Bill took place on 21 May and gave MPs the opportunity to debate the Bill as a whole. The Bill passed its Third Reading vote in the House of Commons by 366 votes to 161 free from any wrecking amendments.
The Bill received its Second Reading in the House of Lords on 3 and 4 June. In the debates loving and committed same-sex relationships were likened by some opponents to incest and bigamy. Lord Dear proposed a motion that would have effectively killed the Bill. On 4 June Lord Dear's motion was defeated by 390 votes to 148, a majority of 242.
The Bill then received comprehensive scuritny during three full days of Committee debate on the floor of the House of Lords. Veteran opponents of equality sought to rename same-sex marriage as civil unions, allow teachers to opt out of teaching facts and enshrine in law that public servants can refuse to serve gay people.
We were, however, heartened to see so many supporters articulately and calmly make the case the House to counter misleading, and often offensive, claims about gay people and their relationships for equality. Our speaking notes and intervention briefings were used repeatedly on all sides of
Thankfully, the Bill remained materially unamended despite efforts to wreck the proposals.
The second day of Report Stage took place on Wednesday 10 July. The debate, again, went late into the night as opponents of the Bill gave lengthy speeches about amendments that had already been debated, at length, at Committee Stage.
Lord Alli proposed amendments on reviewing the laws covering occupational pension schemes and same-sex couples.The Government Minister committed to discuss the potential of a review with other Ministers before Third Reading.
Lord Armstrong of Ilminster proposed an amendment which would allow for two classes of marriage - one for opposite-sex couples and one for same-sex couples - to be introduced in regulations once the Bill received Royal Assent. Many peers, rightly, took great issue with the amendment as the issue was debated at length on Monday and defeated by 314 votes to 119. Lord Armstrong withdrew his amendment.
Baroness Deech then pushed to a vote an amendment that sought to open up civil partnerships to family members and unpaid carers. We strongly opposed this amendment which sought to diminish the importance of civil partnerships and same-sex relationships. The amendment was defeated by 267 votes to 89.
Two amendments on education and schools were then debated. The first, proposed by the Bishop of Leicester, sought to provide 'clarity' for schools of a religious ethos about discussing same-sex marriage. This amendment was wholly unnecessary as it duplicated existing guidance which gives religious schools freedom to express their views on such issues. The Bishop of Leicester withdrew the amendment.
The second amendment, proposed by Earl Listowel, sought 'evidence-based' guidance to be sent to schools on the 'implication' of same-sex marriage on children. In his speech in support of the amendment Earl Listowel made gravely offensive statements about the 'risks' posed to children of same-sex parents. Stonewall strongly opposed this clear 'son of Section 28' amendment. Following a long debate the Earl of Listowel withdrew the amendment.
Lord Singh then proposed an amendment that sought to hold a referendum on same-sex marriage before the next general election. We strongly opposed this amendment which is both unnecessary but also had significant financial, and democratic, implications. After another lengthy debate Lord Singh withdrew the amendment.
Following the resounding defeat of previous wrecking amendments, peers opposed to the Bill decided not to move their amendments, including on 'freedom of expression' and the Equality Act 2010. The Government also successfully laid amendments on aspects of the Bill affecting trans people and their spouses.
The final stage in the House of Lords, Third Reading, took place on Monday 15 July. The Bill was approved by peers at Third Reading.
On 29 July 2013 the Queen gave the bill Royal Assent, it had finally completed its journey through parliament and became an Act.
In the months that followed, Stonewall and many parliamentarians have pushed the government to implement equal marriage as quickly as possible. We are particularly concerned that couples wishing to convert their civil partnerships to marriage should be able to do so as soon as possible, and without incurring any substantial costs.