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Peers reject block on gay marriage

The introduction of gay marriage moved closer after legislation cleared a major hurdle in the House of Lords.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill was given its second reading after a wrecking amendment was soundly defeated by 390 votes to 148.

The result came after a marathon and impassioned two-day debate involving more than 90 speakers, with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby among those condemning the change.

However, the legislation faces further efforts to derail it as the Upper House begins detailed scrutiny.

MPs have already endorsed the Bill despite opposition from dozens of Tory backbenchers who have refused to follow David Cameron's lead on the issue.

The scale of the vote against independent crossbencher Lord Dear's amendment this evening was hailed by equal rights campaigners.

Lord Dear had branded the Bill "fatally flawed", arguing it would "completely alter the concept of marriage as we know it".

He urged peers to use their free vote to halt its progress and send ministers back to "the drawing board".

But Baroness Stowell of Beeston, for the Government, said the legislation was a "force for good" which would strengthen the institution of marriage.

In the closing moments of the long debate, Lady Stowell also held out an olive branch to religious leaders opposed to conducting same sex marriages. If further changes to the legislation were necessary to make protections for religious organisations clearer, the Government would consider doing so, she said.

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