British’s parliament voted in favor of legalizing gay marriage today, but Prime Minister David Cameron’s power in his own party took a devastating blow as his fellow Conservatives were divided over the measure he championed.
In the first of many votes required for passage, the lower house of parliament supported the legislation by an overwhelming 400-175 vote. However, more than half of Cameron’s 303 lawmakers abstained or voted against the bill, signaling shaky support and unease with not only the bill, but the Prime Minister’s leadership in general.
In the midst of a debate that lasted more than six hours, several Conservative MPs spoke-out against the legislation, claiming that it was morally wrong, unnecessarily divisive, not a public priority and a corrosive threat to British society.
Conservative lawmaker Gerald Howarth echoed this sentiment by telling parliament the government had no authority to push through a massive cultural and social change. Supporters of this movement claimed that the law was not evolution, but an attempt at revolutionizing the heterosexual nature of marriage.
Although the vote went the Prime Minister’s way, several analysts believe David Cameron is now forced to address the issue that is dividing his party.
Before the vote, Cameron expressed his desire to pass the legislation, claiming that it was an initiative to make society stronger. Cameron stated, “I am a big believer in marriage. It helps people commit and think that’s why homosexual people should be able to join the union as well.” Cameron would later hail the vote as a step forward for the nation.
The vote represents a tricky balancing act for the Prime Minister: he must reconcile his desire to show his party’s progressive side with the views of many who are uncomfortable with the legislation.
Amid discussion of a possible leadership challenge to the Prime Minister, a number of Conservative lawmakers claim that the prime minister is sacrificing core party values for populism. In addition to this sentiment, many conservative MP’s claim that Cameron is “arrogant”, too fond of the European Union and not primed to win the next election.
The gay marriage legislation has seemingly infuriated rank-and-rifle party activists and complaints have been filed and signed by 25 past and present officers of local Conservative associations warned that said members are started to resign over the issue.
Faced with stiff opposition from the Catholic and Anglican churches, the law has a provision that would not require religious institutions to perform gay marriages. The proposed legislation would legalize same-sex marriages in 2014 and would allow civil partners to convert their partnerships into full-fledged marriages.