David Cameron's marriage equality legislation faces a challenging series of votes in parliament today, the Guardian reports, the primary one coming from an amendment by Tory opponents to grant civil partnerships to heterosexual couples:
Maria Miller, the equalities minister, has warned that the entire gay marriage bill will be at risk of collapse if Tory opponents join forces with Labour MPs to vote in favour of granting civil partnerships to heterosexual couples.
In the strongest indication yet that Downing Street will shelve the bill if "fundamental" changes are made, Miller warned that opponents were in danger of giving the government a "headache".
The government warned of three dangers to the bill if an amendment to grant civil partnerships to heterosexual couples is passed. It is being tabled by the former children's minister Tim Loughton who opposes gay marriage. A government source said the Loughton amendment would:
• Come with a price tag of £4bn. Steve Webb, the pensions minister, told parliament's joint committee on human rights last week that the state would be liable for new "survivors'" pension rights.
• Delay the introduction of the entire bill by 18 to 24 months because the government would need to work on the joint implementation of new rights for gay married couples and heterosexual couples in new civil partnerships.
• Complicate the government's argument that the changes are about strengthening the institution of marriage by opening it to all couples. "If you open up civil partnerships to opposite sex couples then the institution of marriage will be weakened," one
Pink News adds:
A Downing Street source told PinkNews.co.uk that, if an amendment put forward by Tim Loughton, which would extend civil partnerships to heterosexual couples, were to pass, the Government may pull its support for the Marriage (Same Sex couples) Bill.
The source said no option could be ruled out over the bill, until after the vote on the amendment.