Gay marriage debate as it happened
12:41 – Afternoon. Well, we're finally here. The Tory party tearing itself apart on gay marriage. The last piece of the jigsaw one step closer. It’s the first parliamentary debate on gay marriage. We'll be with you throughout until the vote at about 7pm.
12:46 – It begins rather strangely, with Maria Miller, leading for the government, telling the Speaker: "As you and I both know, every marriage is different.." Mmm, bet Sally will be chuffed with that one. Stewart Jackson (Con, has never been happy) mentions the words consummation and adultery for the first time in the debate. It won't be the last. These two issues have been focused on as a way to pick apart the legislation by opponents.
12:51 – Miller is getting a torrent of interventions but she soldiers on. As a politician she has come on leaps and bounds since the gay marriage debate started. She even appears human, on occasions. She also has a convincing way of peering over her glasses at people. Behind her, by the way, are Dominic Grieves, attorney general, and Lynne Feathstone, equalities minister. "A legal partnership is not perceived the same way… as marriage. All couples who enter into lifelong commitments together should be able to call it marriage." Simon Hughes (Lib Dem, increasingly tedious) uses his hands very much indeed as he tells her, pointlessly, that religious people still need to be reassured. Intellectual mediocrity is no barrier to public grandstanding.
12:55 – Caroline Lucas (Greens, glamorous Ming the Merciless) says the Church of England is being legally barred from holding gay marriages. Miller says if they want to opt in they'll be allowed to.
12:57 – The interventions just keep on coming. David Davis (Con, not that one) bangs on about Europe, asking if we will face down European courts on gay marriage being forced on religious groups. I really can't reiterate enough times how well Miller looks down her glasses. She tries to press on. She averages one sentence per intervention. She's now on provisions in the bill.
13:00 – Nigel Dodds (DUP, very DUP indeed) says this is not a matter of principle, but made out of "low political calculation" to detoxify the Tory brand. She slaps him down a bit and he stares at her, angry and unimpressed. Andrew Selous (Con, seemingly stretched) makes another critical point about freedom of religious belief with reference to someone who came a cropper because of a Faceboook message.
13:04 – Sir Gerald Howarth is our first foaming-at-the-mouth-raving-anti. He is particularly angry at the three line whip on the programme motion of the bill.
13:06 – Featherstone is at DfID now, by the way, she's no longer equality minister as I wrongly said earlier.
13:07 – Some of Howarth's quote: "Where's the mandate for this massive cultural change?" He then branded it "an irrelevance that shouldn't be pursued through the House".
13:14 – Miller starts wrapping up. "This bill is about one thing. Fairness. It’s about giving those who want to get married the opportunity to do so while protecting the rights of those who don't believe in same-sex marriage. This bill supports and cultivates marriage and I commend this bill to the House."
13:17 – Yvette Cooper (Lab, shadow home secretary, never knowingly correct) gets up for the opposition, who obviously support the government agenda. She is flanked, fittingly, by Harriet Harman and Chris Bryant. Both seem to be having a good time. She is asked why straight couples can't have civil partnerships. Cooper says there should be a debate on that.
13:19 – Jack Dromney (Lab, guvner) asks if it’s right everyone should be able to marry. "We all love a good wedding," Cooper says. Personally I hate weddings, but I take the point. Nadine Dorries makes an extremely foolish point. "Real equality exists when we can celebrate our differences," she says. Celebrating freedom in this case means barring people from marriage, presumably.
13:22 – Cooper even suggests that the increased spending will help boost the economy. "When people love each other, they want to make that long term commitment, that is a wonderful thing," Cooper continues. "The honourable member is confusing marriage with weddings, they are different things," a Tory MP barks. Cooper keeps giving way. Next up is Christian Toby Perkins (Lab, suit three sizes too large) who points out how quickly attitudes have changed on the gay issue. Ian Paisley (DUP, son of….) says same-sex marriage decreases the popularity of straight sex marriage. Mps laugh at him. This legislation will reduce the "number of parties the honourable member appears to be interested in" he says, barely containing his anger. "He will struggle to find a causal connection," Cooper notes.
13:27 – Cooper is doing well, but he argument is entirely emotive, rather than rational. David Lammy (Lab, impressive) reminds the House of the police beatings members of Stonewall faced and how the Commons ignored it. he also celebrates the politicians who fought against Section 28. It is remarkable to think of how quickly the debate has moved and where we are now.
13:30 – Now the reason comes. First, Cooper brings up concerns around Churches later having to conduct same-sex marriages. She says that's impossible and relies on Miller's arguments. She outlines the quadruple locks the government has put forward. "Churches should be able to change their minds in future as well, without unnecessary hurdles and barriers," she adds. Cooper says she will scrutinise the extra hurdles put in the place of the Church of England and Church of Scotland.
13:36 – On she goes. It’s odd hearing her agree so thoroughly with the government and every so often she can't help herself and allows a quick party political jab in, not least on Labour pressure to allow churches to conduct gay marriages if they want to. Cooper sticks to the emotive arguments, telling stories of couples who stay together caring for each other during tough times. "The idea the biology of procreation should deny" same-sex couples rights is to "deny the richness of family life" she says. That was quite nice. "Marriage has changed many times before. Other societies have done it. Their societies have not fallen apart."
13:42 – Yep. Cooper is doing probably her best ever performance here. I'll give it five out of ten. No, I know. Not impressive. And she isn't. Online, the number of people asking where the prime minister is is growing. Some believe he is staying under the radar because Downing Street is scared of a fight – but by doing so he encourages Tory Mps to vote against the bill. We could end up with more Tories voting against it than for it. David Winnick (Lab, tea) reminds the House of British hero Alan Turing, hounded for homosexuality. David Davis (still not that one) gets angry that Cooper is only taking interventions from her side. She needles him mercilessly for i and John Bercow looks similarly unimpressed.
13:45 – "Let us celebrate, not discriminate. Let’s be on the right side of history and let’s vote for this bill today," she says. OK, that’s the end of the front bench speeches. We're onto the meat now. Sir Tony Baldry offers some inclination of how this debate will go when he starts his speech by insisting we are all born in the image of God. And then he begins telling everyone why we value heterosexual marriage better than the alternative. "I shall vote against the bill," he says. "Hear hear," a couple of MPs groan. Baldry will be going on for some time by the way. He represents the Church of England so gets a full ten minutes. Other MPs get four.
13:50 – "I'm not going to give way," he says to the demands from the benches around him. "Once marriage is redefined new legal questions will arise and no-one can be sure what these will be." Baldry goes onto the divorce law argument, specifically around 'complete' (yeah, I know) sex as standard of adultery. Religious people always seem so much more obsessed with sex than everyone else. Complete sex, that is. "There is no way of knowing how robust these legal protections will be until they reach the courts." Baldry goes on about altering the basic nature of marriage, which delivers "no obvious legal gains given the rights already conferred by civil partnerships." And with that he’s done. Next up is Labour man Robert Flello, who is opposing the bill.
13:56 – He says marriage is not just about love or it would have nothing to do with the state. An MP tells him the state interferes all the time, for instance on property rights. He accepts this, but insists the bill creates inequality. it is trying to engineer a "cultural equivalence". No idea what that means. "There is nothing to stop a future government legislating to allow or require churches to conduct same-sex marriages." Now he dives into the "other pressing issues" argument. He says no-one has ever mentioned it to him, despite all his gay friends.
13:59 – Flello ends, without having made an argument. Nadine Dorries is up.
14:00 – Dorries says marriage is about sex. In a straight marriage couples can divorce for adultery – sex with a member of the opposite sex. When people marry they promise to foresake all others. "A gay couple have no obligation to make that vow because they do not have to foresake all others to satisfy the definition of adultery". It gets worse, although, winningly, she does say: "If I were a gay couple I would feel like a poor relation." Ah, so she's doing this to help gay couples. She wants information about Peter Thatchell was inspired by him. She says she respects Thatchell but that he thinks equality is not enough – she wants the minister to repudiate the overall intentions of Thatchell and his lobby.
14:14 – Jim Dobbin (Lab, wax-on-wax-off) appears to be another Labour anti. "For a bill to be driven by the word equality and then to demonstrate more inequality seems to suggest failure". He goes on: "It is a bill which dilutes the meaning of marriage. Having a traditional view o marriage does not suggest discrimination."
14:17 – The comments online are becoming increasingly bruising. "Is it the unique sanctity of his first, or second, marriage that Sir Roger Gale MP is seeking to defend?" the head of Stonewall tweets as the man gets up to speak. Gale voted for the age of consent to stay at 21 for gay people when it was voted on in the Commons. He seems certain the bill will end up in the courts.
14:19 – The government is trying to "rewrite the lexicon". He adds: "It will not do." And on he goes: "Abolish civil partnerships bill and introduce a civil union bill that applies to everyone irrespective of their relationships" – including "brothers and brothers". Yep, he just compared gay relationships to incest. Chris Bryant says it is "very offensive".
14:24 – Nick Herbert (Con, straight off the conveyer belt) is up. "Why should the law prevent liberal Jews or Quakers conducting gay marriage?” he asks. "You do not have to have a gay marriage. Your choice does not have to conduct gay marriage." He imagines a straight couple saying their relationship is over because Elton John was marrying his partner. It is actually quite funny. This is a great speech.
14:28 – Herbert speaks of bullied gay children in schools, sportsmen who won't come out. he says the parliamentary debate sends a signal. "Millions will be watching us today – not just gay people but those who want to live in a society where people are treated equally. They will hear our words and witness our votes." Ben Bradshaw (Lab, quiff) gets up next and says it’s an honour to follow such a good speech.
14:30 – Bradshaw says the church's opposition to the bill would be more convincing if they supported civil partnerships. Because they don't, the suspicion is it comes from a residual wariness of homosexuality.
14:35 – Tim Loughton is interrupted by Steve Brine (Con, unfortunate nose) who says redefining marriage "mortally offends" many of his constituents. Loughton goes on. "There are many other inequalities, many bigger inequalities". He says the decision to push ahead is "bad politics".
14:40 – Stephen Doughty (Lab, old enough to shave) quotes Pat Robertson, a vigorously anti-gay marriage US preacher: "We have moved on in our conception of human beings until we realised slavery is terribly wrong", the quote runs.
14:42 – Edward Leigh (Con, stranger to sealed blood vessels) says he was given assurances about a civil partnership bill not leading to gay marriage. Bryant wants to intervene. "I give way to the gentlemen who gave me the assurance," he says. Bryant was the minister saying so at the time. He leans forward and smiles and says the world has moved on. "The world may move on again and the assurances we are currently given may not mean too much." Bernard Jenkin a Tory MP, gets up."It's not the first time he's been wrong by the way," he says of Bryant.
14:46 – Leigh says by its definition marriage requires two people of opposite sexes. "This is not evolution, this is revolution. i a blessed with six children. Not all couples can have children, or want to. But every marriage has reproductive potential because it brings together the two elements necessary for a child."
14:49 – Very telling finish to that Leigh speech. The bill is a "final kick in the teeth for loyal conservatives". Not sure if that's a big C or a small one.
14:53 – Steve Reed (Lab, presentable), issues a good little line. "If you don't like gay marriage, then don't marry someone gay … you are either equal or you are not."
14:56 – MPs knew they would be watched (a rare occurrence) today so they put on their most interesting outfits. Caroline Lucas is wearing a Tarzan's Jane style number while Margot James (Con, Icelandic chic) is wearing a rather fetching jacket. "We should celebrate cultural and other differences, but having been different for most of my life I can assure you that being treated equally is very important indeed. We[the Tories] must never flinch from this or we will end up like the Republican party which lost an election it could well have won if it wasn't for its socially conservative agenda. Gay people have always been free to marry, if it’s to someone of the opposite sex."
15:05 – Simon Hughes (Lib Dem, bisexual, wouldn't mention it but relevant for our purposes here) says he comes to the debate "with the complexities of who I am". Hughes continues: "It was Edward in King Lear who said 'stand up for bastards.'. Well we must stand up for gay rights." Er. That was weird. Hughes is asked to apologise to Peter Thatchell for the by-election fight which got him into parliament (a famously homophobic and dreadful fight). He says he has done so in private and public.
15:10 – He says he watched Lincoln recently. People at that stage took different sides of an intense argument despite their faith. "We have to learn that understanding each other position and seeking maximum consensus is the way to proceed."
15:27 – Graham Brady ends his speech by saying the bill will go the European court, whatever the government says. Next up is Stephen Timms (Lab, human, falling apart) who he will vote for the bill at 2nd reading but vote against it at 3rd reading. No, I don’t understand that either. He tries the sex argument on for size, to which another Labour MP asks why her marriage was considered legitimate, given she was already getting on a bit when she tied the knot. Enjoyable, self–deprecating intervention.
15:38 – Jonathan Reynolds (Lab, bit melty) makes an interesting point on who 'owns' marriage. It ain't religion, he suggests, and the state has made several modifications. He goes on to say that the number of constituents opposing or supporting it is not, in actual fact, the issue – it's that it’s a matter of his principle. Stephen Williams (Lib Dem, clashing ties and shirts) is up now. He is openly gay. "Progress has come in fits and starts and has not always been easy," he says. it was virtually impossible to be openly gay in university. "Please have some empathy. Equality is not something that can be delivered partially. Equality is absolute."
15:46 – Mike Freer (Con, funeral posture). Gets up. "We should remember the words spoken in this chamber hurt far beyond this chamber." He says entering parliament was the second proudest day of his life, after his civil partnership. "I ask my heterosexual colleagues – Did you get married for the legal protections it afforded you? Of course you didn't."
15:54 – Michael McCann (lab, accountant/IT bod) made a speech. I had temporary brain freeze, didn't catch any of it. Quite knackering this live blogging malarkey. Or Christ, he's still going. He suggests a change in case law would possibly allow European courts to interfere with churches and gay marriage. Next up: Peter Bone.
15:58 – Bone says it's his saddest day in the House. He says his party has brought it in with no "democratic mandate".
16:02 – By the way, the Telegraph is saying Nigel Farage is not going to run in the Eastleigh by-election. Back in the Commons, Bone is still cracking on. "Why is my view, or the leader of my party, any more important than the person in the Dog and Duck in Wellingborough?" This fact does not seem to bother him during other debates.
16:08 – Gerald Howarth is up. He is very dreadful indeed. He is again trying this bizarre argument that allowing gay marriage will discourage straight marriage. I'm trying to picture how, but it's difficult. Apparently this is substantiated by stats from Spain.
16:12 – Howarth asks how we can be sure this will be the end of the (I guess gay rights) process. "I am not a Tory moderniser," he then says, surprising no-one.
16:21 – Christopher Chope (Con, sagging badly) says he's against the bill because his constituents are against it. Another MP stands up to ask if he checked the age of the people writing in to him. "I have five children. If I was going to oppose this bill they'd think I was bonkers." Chope replies that he has the most elderly constituency in the country. Fair enough.
16:31 – Every-so-slightly losing the will to live now. No matter, just two and a half hours to go. John Glen (Con, not waiting up for a Mensa invitation) insists he is not homophobic and hopes his "gay friends" will forgive him for voting against. If that sounds weird try hearing him mention the "members of this House who profess to be gay". Profess? He goes on: "As an otherwise ardent supporter of the prime minister I have tried very hard to reconcile myself to his view on this matter, but I can't see how any government can automatically confer marriage on someone by passing a law without changing the nature of what marriage means."
16:36 – David Lammy is up .He tells the minister she will look back on this moment with pride. "This change is right and the time is now," he says. "Separate but equal is a fraud."
16:39 – It's a great speech from Lammy. I've got as much of it down as possible. "Separate but equal is the same thought that pushed Rosa Parks to the back of the bus. It's the words that justified sending children to different schools. It is an excerpt from the book of the racists and the segregationists. It is the same naivety that made my dad, being a citizen when he arrived here, refused by landlords saying 'no blacks, no Irish no dogs'. Separate is not equal so let us be rid of it, because as long as there is one rule for us and another for them, we allow the barriers to acceptance from being conquered. We allow the rot of homophobia to fester."
16:53 – There is a trend. People who get up to defend heterosexual marriage looks like they would struggle to find anyone to engage in it with them. David Burrowes (Con, case in point) stands and says he intends to defend the institution of marriage.
16:55 – Burrowes gives Ben Summerskill of Stonewall a citation he could have done without. he reminds Mps the organisation was against gay marriage because it would "put us in our trenches".
17:03 – William McCrea is up. You can learn everything you need to know about William McCrea in this short video clip:
17:20 – Geraint Davies (Lab, visibly imploding) is making rather ineffectual hand gestures as he labours over his argument, which I frankly didn't listen to. I think he was pro. Sarah Wollaston (Tory, won't be told what to do, quite wonderful) is the third MP to cite Turing. "Homosexuality needs no treatment," she says. "Sexuality is intrinsic to who we are."
17:24 – She's doing very well. "Would your marriage feel any less valuable if it's extended to those with different views to yourself?" She reminds us Truing laced an apple with cyanide – apples being the symbol of forbidden love. "Homosexuality is not forbidden love," she says. "I shall be thinking of Alan Turing and all those people who had to live a lie. All those people around the world for whom homosexuality is still a death sentence. Vote for love and equality."
17:26 – Fear not, lovers of reason, Ian Paisley is back up. And he’s frothing. "Government does not change nature," he says. Yeah, he’s gone down that road. It's a lonely road, but he always seems very entertained by his own words.
17:28 – "Marriage is not defined by love itself," he goes on. "There is no passion-ometer in terms of legislation." Is anyone following this? "This bill does not create love for them. It's nonsense to say we are legislating for love." Bryant pops his absurd balloon: "I don't think homosexuals are looking for the state to create love for us." Paisley claims: "The honourable gentleman makes my point exactly." Really?
17:31 – It's the highlight of the debate. Paisley just mentioned "Christophobia". No, I don’t know what it is either, but if the standard of his speech is anything to go by it must refer to something which does not exist.
17:37 – That Ian Paisley speech – and a sausage roll (the scoffed down dinner of champions) – has cured my lethargy. For a while there, I was struggling. We're now on Willy Bain (Lab, never been in a fight). I can never make it to the end of a Willie Bain sentence. Today is no different. Something about Scotland.
17:45 – Matthew Offord (Con, inept bank manager) gets owned by Tom Harris (Lab, blogger extraordinaire) as he slaps him about with a bit of Old Testament legal precedent. He ends every sentence with "that's hardly fair either", which makes him sound like an over-educated teenager.
17:48 – Offord, as his name suggests, is off on one. He suddenly flies into a bitter rage and demands those who say gay marriage has been compared to polygamy. He then insists he never said it. This comes directly after and before a long rant about polygamy.
17:50 – Sir Peter Bottomley (con, remnant from a kinder time) stands up for moderate Conservativism. In an off-hand way he refers to a gay teacher he knew who was murdered by a rent boy. He offers a historic, legal and ethical argument which is miles above those from his colleagues. "This is not redefining marriage, it is removing barriers," he says.
17:53 – Crispin Blunt (Con, oddly authoritative) offers a very interesting argument. He is interrupted by Mark Menzies, another Tory MP, who says he arrived in the Commons expecting to abstain but now intends to vote for the bill.
18:03 – Blunt's speech was particularly interesting because he has personally dealt with many of the problems discussed himself.
18:04 – John Howell (Con, doesn't know how to do up a tie) cites Spain, especially on the speed with which the reform has been accepted there. "There has been a lack of depth in the responses," he says. "As I thought about the issues before me I too have been troubled," he says. He ultimately believes it is right people should get married if they want. But he thinks the legislation was prepared in haste. "Much of the public disquiet was about the speed with which this has come forward. It was not in the manifesto, it was not in the coalition agreement, it was not in the Queen's Speech." Sounds like he'll support it but vote against the programme motion. Ah, perhaps not. He says he will support it but wants reassurances about how thorough committee stage will be. Good luck with that mate.
18:08 – Gavin Barwell (Con, big head tiny body) says this is the hardest call he has made as an MP. If this really is the hardest choice he faced he really needs to go home and think about what he's done. Barwell starts banging on about marriage. He regrets how rare it is. Is it? Regardless, he's making a strong case for how unlikely it is there would be a legal challenge against churches for not conducting gay marriages. On making straight marriage less popular, he says: "Mrs Barwell suffers enough for this job. If I thought by voting I would be undermining marriage I wouldn't go through with it." He goes on: "I am a small 'c' conservative. I don't like change."
18:15 – I think they're all Tories now – the only ones left standing. Therese Coffey (Con, human wet blanket) says she's going to vote against the bill. She's never been right about anything before, she's entirely right not to start now. One must be consistent at least. She says the legislation is shoddy. "The government is not planning to indemnify any institution against legal challenge," she says. Next argument: No civil unions for straight people. Final argument: There are too many inconsistencies. Argument one is absurd, argument two is plainly hypocritical and argument three is not an argument but a vague sensation. "I'm not trying to say love between people of the same sex is evil," she says. The fact she feels the need to specify that does not bode well for her mental state.
18:24 – Richard Fuller (Con, unmistakably evil voice) says the bill contains a noble ambition. "It is an ambition I share but I shall not be joining my colleagues in the aye lobby this evening". He wants to explain his ever-so-complicated opinion.
18:26 – He spends more time than one would advise on the history of gay rights, given the four minute speech limit. "What all of that has told me is that although it is important to speak, it is also important to listen, and when one receives so many views from constituents, one should have some humility." He goes on: "Faith matters. And we ignore the subtleties of the sinews of faith (see what I mean about unmistakeable evil) at our peril". He ends without having made any substantial points whatsoever, except for the fact that he is seemingly voting against his principles because enough people wrote him letters.
18:28 – Bob Blackman (Con, hands with a life of their own) says "thousands" of letters back up his view against gay marriage. There are differences between relationships between gay and straight people. For a start they can't consummate the marriage. Christ, he really needs to get out more. Now he attacks the consultation, saying it wasn't about 'should we do it', but 'how should we do it'? It's like he only just discovered politics.
18:32 – Richard Drax (Con, falling apart with gravitas) says it's "a step too far and a sad day for marriage as I and millions of people in this country would understand it". He goes on: "Redefining marriage. Where do we stop? What do we redefine next? Husbands? Wives? Mr and Mrs? Why not just redefine everything? I don't want this nation to turn into a place of grey nothings." I know. If he must be mad, it's nice that he is also oddly wonderful.
18:36 – Iain Stewart (Con, I've literally never seen him before) talks about coming out as gay. "I don't have anyone at the moment but if I do I want to love them, support them." That was actually quite touching. "I don't understand why some people feel threatened that allowing me to have that in any way diminishes what a heterosexual couple has."
18:42 – The Commons is filling up again now, suggesting we're nearing the end. Just 18 minutes until the vote. It will probably take some time, however. Guy Opperman (Con, Michael McIntyre) is up. "I myself am not married," he says. "I have yet to find a woman who wants to marry a man such as myself. But she is out there, Mr Speaker."
18:49 – Oh thank God I think we're wrapping up. Kate Green, shadow equalities minister, is delivering Labour's summary. She has the uncanny knack of sounding altogether human, even while addressing the House of Commons. She even looks human. The same cannot be said for Yvette Cooper and Chris Bryant, who stare ahead, immobile. Bryant, however, has an impeccable tie. Green makes an excellent point: "Marriage is a social institution and because it is a social institution it changes over time. It is resilient in part because it changes."
18:52 – Tim Farron just walked into the chamber. He is important, because he is a Christian who wants to be the next Lib Dem leader. That would be easier for him if he wasn't a Christian (his abortion votes are a particular problem). He said on Twitter he will vote for the bill – best to make doubly sure though. Green finishes up: "We lay down a marker for equality and our society as a whole will be the stronger for it."
18:54 – Hugh Robertson wraps up for the government. Commons is pretty rammed now. "This is a bill whose time has come," he says. He tries to deal with some of the concerns raised in the debate.
18:56 – Robertson is well liked across the House and you can tell why. He oozes competence and is a reassuring presence. Hugh Robertson gets up again, demanding committee stage on the floor of the House. Andrew Lansley looks like someone stole his small intestine and he's wondering where it went. As ever, he seems barely awake. Maria Miller is bored, but he junior cracks on. "The bill specifically protects the rights of those who do not agree and does not compel anyone to do anything."
18:59 – Division!
19:00 – Right that's that. The lobbies are cleared as MPs trundle off to vote.
19:01 – When the 'yes' vote comes in, don't get too excited. The bill still has to get through committee stage, third reading, and then the Lords before it is passed. This is just second reading, where the Commons agrees the principle of the bill. It will definitely pass. The biggest issue now is how many Tory MPs 'rebel'. It's a free vote but they are still voting against their party leadership. If it is half of them or over, you can chalk this up as another humiliation for David Cameron.
19:06 – OK, I have to run off now but I leave you in the capable hands of Alex Stevenson, who will see us through to the vote in about 20 minutes time. Thanks for sticking with us through a lengthy and partially insane debate. It's been surprisingly good fun, apart from the bit where I lost the will to live. Cheerio.
19:08 – Hello there – this is Alex 'Capable' Stevenson, who hasn't been paying attention at all, but is now quite interested to see what the result actually is.
19:11 – A Sky reporter is pointing out that there is only one person protesting against the bill outside parliament right now. Is this a case of a bad apple spoiling the broth? No, wait, I don't think that's quite right.
19:13 – This is obviously a rather bizarre occasion for some Labour MPs. Young 'un Lucy Powell tweets: "Going through the voting lobby with Tories and Lib Dems is a bit weird." To which the correct response is 'you're a bit weird', if you're feeling uncharitable.
19:15 – Diane Abbott says the Commons is "buzzing with anticipation". Which seems about right, as the chamber is once again packed with MPs. Voting nearly over now, and we're just a few minutes away from the result.
19:17 – And here's the result: The bill passes by 400 votes to 175.
19:19 – Um. I'm quite surprised by that, to be honest. One hundred and seventy five MPs rejecting this is a lot more than was expected. It seems the Tory (non) rebellion has quite a bit more bite than previously thought. There were 75 abstentions, which is not that many – it looks to me as if the number of Conservatives voting against is quite substantial.
19:21 – Filtering down from central lobby the impressions are shock, really. Not that the legislation has passed, but simply how few Tories there were voting with the government.
19:24 – The initial predictions are that there were around 150 Conservative MPs voting against the legislation, which is roughly half the parliamentary party. Another count has 139 Tories voting against, and 132 for. It almost doesn't matter what the exact figure is, now: it's roughly half and half. The Conservatives have been well and truly SPLIT over this one.
19:25 – Labour, not wanting to be left out, are quick off the mark in getting some comments out from Ed Miliband. Here's what the leader of the opposition has to say: "This is a proud day and an important step forward in the fight for equality in Britain. The overwhelming majority of Labour MPs supported this change to make sure marriage reflects the value we place on long-term, loving relationships whoever you love."
19:26 – The Freedom To Marry organisation, which put out yesterday's pro-reform letter countering Tory opponents to the bill, has this to say: "We believe today's vote was a momentous step towards the goal of securing the freedom for gay people to marry."
19:27 – And so, with the news that Lib Dem chief secretary to the Treasury is marking the occasion by wandering around parliament in a kilt, I leave you to go and do some… well, some sport, actually, since you ask. This one went to script: a thumping majority, the Conservatives even more divided than we thought they were, and another step closer to what those on both sides of the debate are viewing as a really momentous reform for British society and British culture. G'night!