Postal votes

Gay marriage

Wednesday, 6th February 2013

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill divided the Conservative Party almost down the middle yesterday and I was one of those who voted against David Cameron. I am not in any way against equal rights and I don’t believe in discrimination. But whilst we heard a lot about gay rights, we didn’t hear much about the rights of parents and churchgoers.

In my view, churches should have the right to practise their faith as they see fit. Yet there are many people who want to force churches to hold gay weddings against their will. It is inevitable that someone will try to do this using the European Court of Human Rights. For all the talk of safeguards, the government can have no influence over rulings from the Court in Strasbourg. 

An important question for me was this: If the European Court decide that churches SHOULD be forced to conduct gay wedding ceremonies, would the government be prepared to defy the ruling? I put this point directly to the Minister in the debate and she was not able to give the assurances I wanted.

The second point is the rights of parents. The law will now mean changes to the way sex education is taught in schools. What will those changes be? I have no idea and neither does the government to judge from the answer to one of the questions I tabled on the issue.

As a parent of young children myself I believe I have rights and one of them is to have some say over how my children are taught. That right is eroded by this Bill. I strongly believe we should all respect the rights of gays, and oppose discrimination, but it would be nice to see some of the more militant gay rights groups showing a similar understanding of rights of parents and church groups.

Prior to all of this being announced not one person had ever contacted me to ask for a gay marriage bill, everyone seemed to think that civil partnerships were fine. We have created a division where none existed. I have only spoken to David Cameron on a few occasions but if I see him again before the general election I will encourage him now to concentrate on implementing more of the issues which were actually in the Conservative manifesto, such as a tax break for married couples.

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I have received an enormous amount of correspondence both for and against government proposals to allow gay couples in England and Wales to marry.

I have read the Home Office’s consultation paper -http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/about-us/consultations/equal-civil-marriage/consultation-document?view=Binary – and it’s clear the government is not going to allow gay marriages to take place on religious premises. This is to ensure the rights of churches who refuse to marry gay couples are upheld.

I am completely against any form of discrimination towards people who are gay and I do not believe it’s the role of government to decide who should live with who or what sort of commitment they make to each other. Equally I believe people should be free to follow their religious beliefs, whilst accepting that many people within different religions do not recognise the validity of gay marriage. The overall principle for me is one of freedom – both for gay couples to commit to each other and for religions to follow their beliefs.

I have therefore written to the Rt Hon Theresa May MP, Stonewall and the Equality and Human Rights Commission to seek assurances that if I voted for gay marriage there would be no impact on religious freedom. The answers I get will strongly influence my final decision and ultimately determine how I vote.

I intend to publish all three replies on my website for everyone to see:

My position on Gay Marriage - I will not be supporting the proposals in their current form
I am completely against any form of discrimination towards people who are gay. Equally, I would not support any legislation which would force people to abandon deeply held religious views.
Tuesday 1 May 2012

Further response from the Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities
Thank you for your letter of 5 April about the Government's consultation on equal civil marriage.
Thursday 19 April 2012

Further letter to the Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities
I welcome your reassurance that government plans to allow gay couples in England and Wales to marry will not have any impact on religious freedom.
Thursday 5 April 2012

Response from the Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities
Thank you for your letter of 15 March about the equal civil marriage consultation that the Government is holding.
Wednesday 4 April 2012

Response from the Chief Executive of Stonewall
Stonewall is firmly committed to religious freedom, not least because it is something taken very seriously by many gay people of faith themselves.
Tuesday 20 March 2012

Response from the Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission
Many thanks for your thoughtful question on this issue.
Tuesday 20 March 2012

Letter to the Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities
You have been kind enough to offer me reassurances on two occasions that government plans to allow gay marriage will not have any impact on religious freedom.
Monday 19 March 2012

Letter to Stonewall
Thank you for meeting with me last week. I enjoyed our discussion and I don't think we were too far apart in our views.
Monday 19 March 2012

Letter to the Equality and Human Rights Commission
You will no doubt be aware that the government has today published a consultation on how to introduce equal civil marriage.
Monday 19 March 2012