Yesterday, MPs backed changes to a raft of centuries-old laws ahead of this month’s gay marriages, in a paper ballot of the whole House of Commons.
Last week a committee of MPs approved new rules to go alongside the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, proposing changes such as replacing the term “widow” with “woman whose deceased spouse was a man” or “that person’s surviving spouse” in some instances.
Under the rules, other acts were excluded from the remit of same-sex marriage, so that a gay King’s ‘husband’ is prevented from becoming Queen.
But MP David Burrowes triggered a ballot of the whole House of Commons on the changes, giving politicians a further opportunity to stand for traditional marriage.
The secondary legislation was passed by a series of votes on each new rule in the paper ballot – around 100 MPs rejected the proposals, and at least 360 MPs voted for them.
During the committee debate last week, MPs warned that the new rules are “nonsense” and throw up a “minefield of complexity”.
Sir Gerald Howarth MP said the legislation was “mumbo-jumbo”, and concluded: “We are overturning centuries of tradition and messing about with the English language”.
Former Government minister Sir Edward Leigh MP commented that it was “ridiculous, fatuous and absurd” that the Conservatives were bringing in the legislation.
He noted this was particularly wrong when “there are so many problems besetting our nation and so many people struggling with debt”.
“What we have here is something sinister. It is a mangling of the language. We are now seeing the truth come out”, he commented.
DUP MP Jim Shannon was also critical, accusing the Government of “ramming their proposal through Parliament”.
He said: “If there is still an annual award for gobbledegook, this legislation would probably qualify to be in its higher echelons.”
Tim Loughton MP noted that explanatory notes which are “supposed to make things clearer” on the issue “do little to add clarity”.
Equalities minister Helen Grant denied that the meaning of “widow” was being changed, but agreed to write to MPs to ‘put minds at rest’.
The first same-sex marriages in England and Wales are set to take place on 29 March.