The Brits have an awfully confusing democracy. So I’ve asked an anonymous British friend to explain the quirks, and what it means that Parliament today just voted 400-175 for gay marriage in its “second reading” in the House of Commons.
In a nutshell, he says we’re 98% of the way there towards winning marriage equality in the UK:
Before becoming a law, a bill goes thru these stages:
1st reading – effectively announcing that the bill has been published.
2nd reading – at which a substantive debate takes place on the principles underpinning the proposed law; a yes vote at this stage typically means that the bill will become law in a form somewhat close to the draft.
Committee Stage – a small committee of members of Parliament reviews the law, makes amendments; typically this is where bad drafting is fixed but also where lobbying really makes a difference.
Lords stage – the House of Lords votes on the Bill and sometimes has its own committees. If they vote no, the Bill goes back to the Commons. The Commons can insist on their own version and overrule the Lords but it’s a big pain to do it.
3rd Reading – once the Lords’ have passed the bill, the Commons votes one last time on the final amended version.
The shorter answer to your Q is that there is 98% chance of marriage equality happening – what is left to be argued over is how the law is implemented, how religious institutions are affected, tidying up how divorce law impacts gay married couples, etc. There will be a small number of attempts to amend the law, but on the whole this vote means the big fight is won.
I am totally guessing, but I’d say this will be law in late-September.
Brit friend added the following, and I thought he was joking:
Also, once it is law, a representative of the Queen reads out to Parliament that she has approved the law in Norman French, dating from the 1100s. Cool huh.
I asked him, surely he was joking? Apparently not. Via Wikipedia:
The Clerk of the Parliaments, an official of the House of Lords, traditionally states a formula in Anglo-Norman Law French indicating the Sovereign’s decision. The granting of the Royal Assent to a supply bill is indicated with the words La Reyne remercie ses bons sujets, accepte leur benevolence, et ainsi le veult, translated as “The Queen thanks her good subjects, accepts their bounty, and wills it so.” For other public or private bills, the formula is simply La Reyne le veult (the Queen wills it). For personal bills, the phrase was Soit fait comme il est désiré (let it be as it is desired). The appropriate formula for withholding Assent is the euphemistic La Reyne s’avisera (the Queen will consider it). When the Sovereign is male, Le Roy is substituted for La Reyne.
I can’t think of a greater tribute to a gay rights law than a queen speaking ancient French.