Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sausage Making

The fat lady hasn’t sung yet on the gay marriage vote in Britain, but Her Majesty’s Government has done itself proud to bring the issue to this stage.  Just hours ago, in the House of Commons, 400 members of parliament voted in favor of same-sex marriage, and only 175 MPs voted against.  That is a huge margin.

Opponents are making much of the fact that Prime Minister Cameron’s Conservative Party is badly split, and more conservatives are against change, surprise, surprise, than for it.   That is to say, more than half of the 303 conservatives either voted against it, abstained, or took that delightfully British option of voting for it and against it at the same time. 

Cameron’s neck is on the line.  He’s clearly hoping the support of the majority of Brits, who favor same-sex marriage 55 to 36, will matter more in the long run than those 176 of no, who me?, or yes-and-no votes.

We still have to wait and see what the Lords and Ladies of Britain’s Upper House will have to say.  One hopes now that the Dowager Countess Violet has accepted the marriage of Lady Sybill to the chauffeur, she might persuade her peers that worse things can happen to the institution than to allow others who love each other to do the same.

That debate should be even more interesting.  One blogger predicts they will be persuaded by the large victory in the House of Commons and not want to look like a bunch of “dotty hereditaries wanting to hang and flog the life out of the nation.”  One must not forget, however, how many fine bishops sit in the House of Lords.  They too, even though they are unelected, have a voice. 

What a marvelous age we live in.  I untangle the dogs’ legs, get up from my nap, and tune in to the news online to discover that not only do Britain and France seem to be making rapid progress toward full marriage equality, leaving us colonials in the dust once more, but you can actually watch more than four hours of the actual debate and avoid the laundry entirely for yet another day.  

If you’ve never heard them go at it in the British Parliament, have a look.  There is no better entertainment than this cacaphonous circus making history and alternating between shouts of disapproval and “giving way to the Right Honourable Member” who then gets up and explains why everything just said is balderdash. 

We are in medias res, as I said.  But as I sat there listening to all the MPs go at it, I marvelled at how many were women, at how many different regional accents there were, at how different the whole thing looked since I sat in on a parliamentary debate in 1961 and heard an MP address all of six other male members present, three of whom were asleep, and urge Britain to have their kids start school a little earlier.  Or later.  Can’t remember which, now.

There’s excitement in the air.  A sense that things are moving, that things are getting better.

Hope that’s the case.  In any case, though, have a peek at the debate.  Contrary to what you’ve heard, it can be really good for the democratic soul to see how the sausage is made.

The flag over Parliament picture is from the Huffington Post two hours ago.   They have a fine article on the topic.

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