- (Photo: Reuters/Suzanne Plunkett)
A vote dealing with the controversial and divisive gay marriage bill is scheduled for Tuesday as politicians on both sides make their case regarding the future of marriage in the United Kingdom.
The parliamentary vote is scheduled to occur in the House of Commons on Tuesday, with the bill going next to the House of Lords, parliament's upper house, which is expected to vote on the bill sometime in May. The bill will then head back to the Commons for a second vote.
Proposals of the gay marriage bill are scheduled to come into effect in England and Wales in 2014. The new measures will allow current civil partnerships to convert to a marriage and it will also provide for married individuals the option to change their legal gender without having to alter the official recognition of their union.
The debate surrounding gay marriage has been intense on both sides with supporters claiming that the move will ensure equality for all couples. Gay marriage supporters also have stated that in the United Kingdom civil partnerships for same-sex couples allow for the same legal rights as heterosexual married couples, but gay advocates maintain that the distinction allows for civil unions to be regarded as inferior.
However, opponents of the gay marriage bill explain that the proposed bill would do more harm than good.
Opponents have previously stated that the gay marriage law would unfairly impact religious institutions should it pass. They contend that religious bodies, even with promised protections in place, would be unfairly subjected to litigation should they refuse to perform same-sex ceremonies on the grounds that it serves as a conflict of conscience.
Private members of society could also be adversely impacted, should they choose to refuse services to gay couples that frequent their establishments based solely on religious beliefs.
Susanne Wilkinson, a devout Christian and bed and breakfast owner in Cookham, Berkshire, was told to pay several thousands of dollars in compensation after she refused to let a gay couple share a bed in a room they had rented. Wilkinson did tell the court that she had prevented unmarried heterosexual couples from sharing a bed in the past as well.
Aside from the legal ramifications of enacting such legislation, several former members of the Conservative Party delivered a signed letter to the Prime Minister expressing their concerns that the matter had not been properly debated and that it was pushed through parliament without the proper consultations.
"We feel very strongly that the decision to bring this bill before parliament has been made without adequate debate or consultation with either the membership of the Conservative Party or with the country at large," read the letter signed by 25 past and present chairmen of local Conservative associations.
The gay marriage bill does have support from Britain's Labor and Democratic parties as well as outspoken support from Cameron and some members of the conservative party.
A recent YouGov poll released showed that roughly 55 percent of Britons support same-sex marriage, but questions remain regarding the timing and importance of this one social issue, while the economy and jobs remain at the forefront of voters' minds.
"It's not a big issue for the public but it could hit the reputation of the Conservative Party," Peter Kellner YouGov President, told BBC radio. "Cameron is signaling the modernity of the Conservatives, but the public will see a divided party."