Same-Sex Marriage Bill – further legal issues

Following the two days of debate in the House of Lords on the second reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill on 3rd and 4th June, reported here, the line-by-line examination during its Committee Stage has been allocated three days, 17, 19 and 24 June. On 12 June an instruction to the Committee of the Whole House was agreed whereby it considers the Bill in the following order:

Clauses 1 to 4, Schedule 1, Clauses 5 to 10, Schedule 2, Clause 11, Schedules 3 and 4, Clause 12, Schedule 5, Clause 13, Schedule 6, Clauses 14 and 15, Schedule 7, Clauses 16 to 19.

To these a number of new clauses were added on 13 June, here, and a full list of the marshalled amendments is available here. The Bill as brought from the Commons, here, includes the provision forced upon the government for the review of the Civil Partnership Act 2004, (clause 14), and on 13 June, the Government Equalities Office announced the timetable and Terms of Reference for this review.

Comment

With the exception of the amendments relating to holding a referendum on the Act, (which would take place after the Act had gained Royal Assent, but before its other provisions come into force), the majority concern the clarification of issues specific to groups who are likely to be impacted by its provisions: followers of Judaism, [clause 5, amendment 21]; or Sikhism [clause 5, amendment 22]; or by challenges to their actions in relation to these and various equality provisions; publicly held appointments, [clause, amendment 5]; registrars, [clause 2, amendment 15 to 18]; teaching, [clause 7, amendment 23].

A number of amendments refer to “exercising a function that is a function of a public nature for the purposes of the Human Rights Act 1998”, one of the “grey areas” of particular interest to the Church of England which was discussed at length in the ‘Prayer to Annul’ debate on 15 December 2011 and is reported hereOther proposals seek to identify and protect the concept of “traditional marriage”, [clause 1, amendment 7], or “matrimonial marriage”, [clause 12, amendment 46].

In addition, potential new provisions include  requirements for the Secretary of State to: create a statutory list of religious bodies owning or controlling premises that they do not wish to be eligible to undertake an opt-in activity, [clause 1, amendment 6]; and review the  operation and effects of the Act to be reviewed, two years and five years after it is passed, [clause 15, amendment 47].

Overall, however, apart from the amendments relating to a referendum, the tenor of the debate is expected to be towards the passage of the Bill, although parliamentary tactics may influence some of the decisions as much as legal argument and religious belief.

One thought on “Same-Sex Marriage Bill – further legal issues

  1. Is the imposition of a referendum after the Royal Assent but before the Commencement a first in our constitution, in effect leading the way to the introduction of propositions by majority public vote on any matter as they presently have in the US e.g. Proposition 8 in California?

    If so could the Lords legally unilaterally impose such a momentous change to our constitutional process by way of an amendment to a simple parliamentary Bill?

    Aren’t referendums in our Parliamentary democracy merely consultative so have to be taken before the parliamentary process is initiated, e.g. the forthcoming In/Out referendum will itself change the law an will not legally constrain the government to act (though it would politically unless the majority was too close to call).

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