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Gay Marriage: Lords Vote Moved Amid Warnings Bill Was At Risk

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HOUSE OF LORDS
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The government has heeded warnings that its gay marriage Bill would have been at risk if it stuck to plans to make members of the House of Lords vote on it in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

At least 80 peers are expected to speak in Monday's second reading debate, raising the prospect that any vote could have been delayed until 2am or later.

The Labour Party said it warned the government three weeks ago it risked the Bill being defeated if it scheduled the vote in the early hours and urged it to hold a second day of debate. "They've now seen sense," Labour said.

The vote is now due to take place at the more civilised hour of 5pm on Tuesday.

On Wednesday Labour's shadow equalities minister in the Lords, Baroness Thornton, told HuffPost UK there were a significant number of peers who wanted to support the Bill but would not be "strong enough to stay until 3am in the morning".

However a government source said it was "laughable" to suggest ministers would risk their own Bill being defeated now it is in the Lords.

"The government wouldn’t do anything to jeopardise the equal marriage Bill and its disingenuous to pretend it would. If we need to have the vote in the Lords the next day because second reading is likely to run past peers bedtime’s, then that’s fine," the source said.

The legislation is expected to receive the backing of the Lords in the vote - but Labour was worried the late night vote put this majority at risk as those opposed to gay marriage were more likely to "stay to the bitter end".

Lord Dear, the cross-bench peer who is leading efforts to kill off the bill, told HuffPost UK that while it was the mark of a "civilized society" that minorities be protected, in this case "the minority is so small and the majority is so affronted" that the government should reconsider.

The gay marriage Bill easily passed the House of Commons earlier this month despite the majority of Tory MPs voting against it. Equal marriage campaigners and MPs have urged peers to respect the will of the elected Commons and not try and kill the legislation.

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