There seems to be a widespread sense that the Conservative UK government pushed through legislation to legalise gay marriage.

There appeared to be no great angst with the status quo for gay couples (civil partnerships).

Contrariwise, gay marriage was deeply offensive to many religious people and placed them in a precarious legal position (albeit more perceived than reality) with respect to their deeply held beliefs.

Is this accurate? If so, why did the Conservative government push this legislation through?

  • It was a (minor) part of their election campaign. Mar 27, 2016 at 16:48

4 Answers 4


Mr Cameron was PM of a coalition of Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs at the time of The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, though neither the Conservative 2010 manifesto nor the Coalition Agreement mandated the government to introduce it. The vote for was 400, against 175 and, as such, can not be said to have been pushed through.

The Act covered other aspects of marriage between couples, including sex change of a married person, and consequences for work pensions. In particular, the Act makes clear that marriage is not a religious device; an inter-faith marriage is not always accepted within the respective communities, sometimes resulting in forced conversions, or non-recognition of children.

The Act was largely a sign of the times and somewhat timely due to the coaltion.


They didn't really push it through, there was very little opposition. The tide of opinion has swung far enough that any political party was going to take more heat for opposing gay marriage than supporting it.

The entrenched religious influence so pervasive in the USA is nothing like so influential in the United Kingdom and even the Church of England is moving gradually towards more acceptance of such things.

Don't forget that while some religious organisations strongly objected to gay marriage many others were asking for the rights to be able to perform marriages for gay couples.


Both the top rated answers here reject the premise of the question that The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 was "pushed" through by David Cameron. While the total votes for the Bill were 400 to 175, which suggests a strong majority in favor it is worth noting the under the UK system the government controls the agenda, and given the strong position of the conservative party in the 2010-2015 coalition, that means the Conservative Party at the time the Bill was passed.

The breakdown of the vote can be seen here on wikipedia. And while there there is an overall parliamentary majority for the bill, the Conservative Party vote 126 to 134 against The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013, so in that sense the Bill was pushed against the wishes of the majority of the party with defacto control of the political agenda.

Unfortunately for this as an answer, it's not clear to me why David Cameron decided to go ahead with this legislation against the majority of his MPs and I haven't been able to find any primary sources regarding his reasoning. The most likely reason is because popular opinion in the UK strongly favoured it at the time. Wiki-Opinion. According to the linked article support for Gay Marriage had grown from 52% in 2004 rising to 71% in 2012. Although the linked article makes clear these numbers swung wildly depending on the exact wording of the question, as polls only a couple of months apart generate quite different numbers, though almost always with a majority in favour.

In summary, David Cameron pushed the legislation for equal gay marriage through against the opposition of his own party, but with general parliamentary and UK wide popular support, most likely because he agreed with the mood of the country that it was the right thing to do.

  • I vaguely recall that the EU had an “equality agenda”. Could this have been an attempt by the Government to meet the implications of a directive?
    – 52d6c6af
    Oct 1, 2018 at 14:38
  • No I don't believe so. The Wiki page en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… lists a number of EU countries that still don't allow it. The page does say ECHR requires members to provide legal recognition, but the UK Civil Partnerships would have been sufficient for this purpose prior to the 2013 act.
    – Jontia
    Oct 1, 2018 at 14:42

There was quite a significant amount of angst prior to the bill being announced, and a long running campaign - with Stonewall, the LGB rights group, having just engaged in a high-profile U-Turn and stating they now supported same-sex marriage.

Alongside that, LibDem MP Lynne Featherstone had been appointed to the Equalities brief as part of the coalition, and her stated personal mission as minister was to get same-sex marriage through.

Cameron had a few choices: Block it and risk the coalition fall apart on a relatively minor issue, Grudgingly let her have her way and be seen as not in control or get behind it 100% and claim it as a Tory rather than LibDem victory.

Generally, it's better in politics to be seen to be strong and wrong than weak but right, so the wholeheartedly embracing it option was the best course of action.

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