First Published: November 2002
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.
Gay and Unmarried couples will be allowed to adopt children jointly after the House of Lords bowed to the view of the Commons, and voted in favour of the move. After being humiliated earlier in the week in the elected house, the Tory hierarchy were once again defeated in the Lords, when Peers added to the party's self-inflicted wounds and voted against the official Conservative line. 215 Lords were content with The Adoption and Children Bill as it stood, whilst just 184 were not, a majority for the government of 31.

The Lords rejected adoption proposals last month forcing the Government to take it back to the Commons. Conservative Leader Iain Duncan-Smith imposed a 3 line whip on members of his party, which led to the Resignation of one of his Shadow Cabinet, John Bercow. But despite Duncan-Smith's opposition, and his "Nasty Party" tactics, over 40 Tory MPs, a quarter of the parliamentry party, chose not to follow orders, and either abstained or voted against. Amongst them were some of the Conservative's biggest names including Ken Clarke and Michael Portillo.

The Adoption and Children Bill will become law on Thursday 7th November just as the parliamentry year comes to an end, and means that unmarried couples will soon be able to adopt children jointly, whether they are same sex or different sex partners. The Junior Health Minister, Lord Hunt of King's Heath said the move was "both right and necessary". He went on to say that "Unmarried couples and gay and lesbian couples could provide stable and loving homes for some difficult and damaged youngsters".

The vote in favour of The Adoption and Children Bill in the House of Lords came just a day after the Commons also voted in favour of allowing gay and unmarried couples to adopt. Notably, the issue also exposed serious divisions between traditionalists and modernisers in the Tory party.
In a sensational vote in the Commons Michael Portillo and Ken Clarke joined resigned Shadow Minister John Bercow in ignoring Tory Leader Iain Duncan-Smith's three line whip on the adoption bill vote. His party's MPs were under direct orders to vote against the bill which if passed would allow the adoption of children by unmarried and gay couples.

Michael Portillo described the Conservative's policies as "inconsistent" while John Bercow's speech suggested that if you followed Iain Duncan Smith's thinking to it's logical conclusion MPs were unsuitable to adopt children too. This rebellion is widely seen as the beginning of a serious challenge to the current Tory leadership. Michael Portillo, who's admitted having homosexual relationships in his youth, is widely regarded as a moderniser and one of the few Tories who could mount a credible challenge to Labour at the next election.

Gay Parenting Special Report

Lords Reject Adoption and Children Bill (17 Oct 2002)

John Bercow Resigns Over Tory Gay Adoption Policy (4 Nov 2002)


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