MPs endorsed a Ten Minute Rule Bill proposed by Gainsborough MP Edward Leigh to change the Equality Act, with the motion passed by a margin of nearly three to one (86 votes to 31).
Marriage is set to be named as a protected category, meaning that those who believe in traditional marriage are not going to be be penalised for their beliefs.
Speaking after the vote, Mr Leigh – who served as a minister under both Margaret Thatcher and John Major – claimed thousands of teachers could have been at risk of disciplinary action for expressing traditional views on marriage.
He cited the case of Adrian Smith, a housing manager from the Trafford Housing Trust, who was demoted and saw his pay docked by 40 per cent after a colleague complained about a post on his personal Facebook page that stated gay marriage in churches was “an equality too far”.
Mr Smith eventually won a lengthy legal battle, which ended in High Court last year, but he is yet to be reinstated to his former position.
“Although my bill to help these people will not become law, by voting for it today the House of Commons has expressed concern about this important issue,” Mr Leigh said, adding: “We must now make sure at the very least that the government’s same-sex marriage bill is amended along the lines we have proposed.”
The coalition government recently announced plans to ensure gay marriage has the same legal rights as a wedding between a man and a woman.
A report in the Daily Telegraph has today (January 30th) quoted a cabinet minister as saying prime minister David Cameron’s wife Samantha is behind the gay marriage policy.