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British PM's party split as first gay marriage vote passes

Published on Feb 6, 2013 6:03 AM

LONDON (REUTERS) - Britain's parliament voted heavily in favour of legalising gay marriage on Tuesday, but Prime Minister David Cameron's authority in his own party took a blow as his Conservatives split in two over the measure he had championed.

In the first of several votes required for its passage, the lower house of parliament backed the legislation by 400-175, but more than half of Mr Cameron's 303 lawmakers voted against or abstained, signalling deep unease with it and his leadership.

During a debate that lasted more than six hours, many Conservative MPs denounced the legislation, saying it was morally wrong, not a public priority, and unnecessarily divisive, threatening a corrosive legacy of bitterness.

Conservative lawmaker Gerald Howarth told parliament that the government had no mandate to push through a "massive social and cultural change".

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