An amendment to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill extending civil partnerships to heterosexual couples would cost £4 billion and delay the legislation by as much as two years, the government has claimed.
The government is braced for a significant Tory rebellion during the bill’s third reading later today. As many as 100 Tory MPs could vote for the ‘wrecking’ amendment and ministers are worried that they will joined by a significant number of Labour MPs during the free vote.
The latest warnings are aimed principally at Labour leader Ed Miliband, claims The Guardian. A source told the paper:
“Ed Miliband clearly wants to make political capital. Perhaps he should think of the consequences.”
Equalities Minister Maria Miller told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the amendment would cause “significant challenges”.
“Obviously, it would be for us to go through a consultation and a consideration period to understand how that would work because at the moment there really isn’t the detail there … It throws up a headache because those that remember the issues round the civil partnership bill will remember it took some two years to finalise.”
Civil partnerships for heterosexual couples would increase state liability for pension payments, the government says, and necessitate the careful planning of a new form of civil partnerships, delaying the bill by 18 to 24 months.
The government also believes civil partnerships for heterosexual couples would also muddle the argument it has used with opponents – that it strengthens the institution of marriage by opening it to everyone.
Tory MP Tim Loughton tabled the amendment in March. He dismissed the government warnings:
“The government has come up with a lot of desperate last minute excuses as to why giving full equality of civil partnerships will not work. That’s what happens when you try to redefine marriage without having thought through the consequences.”