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House of Lords advances marriage-equality bill

LONDON – The House of Lords voted today to approve the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

On May 21 the House of Commons, the lower chamber of Parliament, voted 366-161 to approve the bill. The bill would only apply to England and Wales.

Today, the House of Lords first had to vote down an amendment by Lord Dear, who has made all sorts of anti-gay and homophobic claims during the debate. The House of Lords overwhelmingly voted 390-148 to reject Lord Dear's attempt to derail marriage equality.

The bill now goes to committee in the House of Lords, where every line of the bill will be scrutinized. The overwhelming support today makes it all but certain that marriage equality will come to England and Wales within the next year.

During today's debate, Baroness Barker came out publicly for the first time, sharing that she is involved in a same-gender relationship. Tory peer Lord Black shared today that he has been with his male partner for a quarter of a century.

”This is a victory for love, marriage and equality. We are another step closer to our goal of equal marriage. It signals that the House of Lords accepts the principle that we should all be equal before the law,” human rights leader Peter Tatchell said.

The marriage issue generated a lively debate throughout the United Kingdom, and supporters of equal rights bent to religious leaders on faith matters. The bill bans the powerful Church of England and the Church in Wales from offering same-gender marriages, and protects other religions that wish to prohibit such weddings.

Same-gender marriage has been legalized in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, the Netherlands (and the Caribbean island of Saba), New Zealand (August 2013), Norway, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and Uruguay (Aug. 1, 2013).

In Mexico, same-gender marriage is available in the Federal District (Mexico City) and in the states of Oaxaca and Quintana Roo. The marriages are recognized nationwide by Supreme Court order.

In the United States, same-gender marriage has been legalized in Connecticut, Delaware (July 1), Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota (Aug. 1), New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island (Aug. 1), Vermont and Washington -- and in Washington, D.C. It also is legal within the Coquille Indian tribe in Oregon, the Suquamish Indian tribe in Washington state and the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians in Michigan.