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The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill would introduce civil marriage for same sex couples in England and Wales, and enable religious organisations to opt in to conduct same sex marriages if they wish to do so. The Bill includes provisions intended to protect religious organisations and individuals from being forced to conduct same sex marriages. The Bill would also enable civil partners to convert their civil partnership to a marriage and would enable married transsexual people to gain legal recognition in their acquired gender without having to end their marriage.

The proposals have proved highly controversial with interested parties expressing strong opinions both for and against same sex marriage.

Four members of the Public Bill Committee, three from the Conservative Party and one from the Democratic Unionist Party, voted against the Bill at second reading and provided the main opposition to the Bill in Committee.

The Committee considered many amendments and several new clauses, none of which were moved by the Government. The Committee divided on a number of occasions. None of the amendments and new clauses was agreed to, and the Bill was reported without amendment.

Ministers committed to consider further a number of matters:

• marriage of same sex couples in the Church in Wales;

• occupational pensions and survivor benefits;

• a new fast track procedure for some transsexual people to gain a gender recognition certificate.

Hugh Robertson, Minister of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, also confirmed that the Government would look very carefully at any representations made by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee.

Further background and information about the Bill is provided in Library research paper 13/08 (31 January 2013), which was prepared for the Bill’s second reading.

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