MPs vote to support equal marriage

Same sex statues adorn the top of a wedding cake
Same sex statues adorn the top of a wedding cake

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FOUR out of six MPs in the Portsmouth area have voted in favour of same-sex marriage legislation tonight.

The legislation cleared its first hurdle in the House of Commons today, and while nationally the issue saw the Conservative party split down the middle, locally there was overwhelming support from Tory MPs.

Politicians backed the proposals by a big margin of 400 to 175, with Labour and Liberal Democrats strongly in favour.

MPs who voted in favour of equal marriage: Mike Hancock, Lib Dem, Portsmouth South; Penny Mordaunt, Con, Portsmouth North; George Hollingbery, Con, Meon Valley; David Willetts, Con, Havant.

MPs who voted against equal marriage: Caroline Dinenage, Con, Gosport.

Mark Hoban, the MP for Fareham, did not take part in the vote.

Earlier in the day, Mike Hancock told The News he believed marriage should be open to everyone.

He said: ‘I will be voting in favour of it because I think we should involve people who want to be together and have the same qualities as everyone else.

‘Marriage should be open for everyone.

‘I don’t see a particular problem with it at all.

‘I can understand it if people have a different view, but having taken it all into consideration I will be voting in favour of it.

‘Marriage has been taking place long before main religious groups were in place.

‘People commit themselves to life-long relationships.’

Gosport MP Caroline Dinenage has criticised the same-sex marriage bill, saying it had been rushed.

As previously reported, she said: ‘I can see some of the points in it but it’s more the actual way the bill is written.

‘I think it’s written in a hurried and ill-thought out way and we haven’t really looked at what the potential long term consequences are, particularly given that there is a quadruple lock on the Church of England but there isn’t that sort of protection for other faiths.

‘I’m concerned that in the future teachers may be forced to teach civil partnership and gay marriage whether it’s in their religious belief to do so or not.

‘It seems that in some ways we’re marginalising some people’s religious freedom in favour of sexual freedom.’

‘It’s up to the state to protect people to make sure they’re not discriminated against and that they’re not in any way disadvantaged because of their sexuality but I don’t think it should be dictating to religious groups what their definition of marriage is.’

Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt said: ‘I will be voting in favour of the bill, but I only have two main concerns about it.

‘I want to make sure that religious groups can’t be sued if they don’t want to hold marriages for same-sex couples and that any case will be made to government instead.

‘Secondly I want the government to look at how people in non-sexual relationships who live together can be given better protection. Often if one person dies the other has to sell the house they are living in because they can’t afford the costs.

‘Marriage is a very special institution.

‘We should be opening it up to same sex couples who want to make that commitment to each other.’

Culture Secretary Maria Miller has insisted that there is “clear support” from within the Conservative Party for gay marriage as David Cameron faces being deserted by more than half of his MPs over the highly-charged issue.

Mrs Miller highlighted a letter from Mr Cameron’s three most senior Cabinet allies - Chancellor George Osborne, Foreign Secretary William Hague and Home Secretary Theresa May - in support of same-sex marriage, saying there was “significant support” from key Tory activists around the country for the legislation.

“I would point out that today not only have we had a letter from the Home Secretary, the Chancellor and the Foreign Secretary in the papers, but also significant support, again, in the letters of the papers from some of our key activists around the country,” she told BBC Breakfast.

“I don’t think it is quite as cut and dried as you suggest. Yes, there is a difference of opinion and yes, some people have very principled religious beliefs on this issue, but there is clear support within my party and indeed within the other major parties.”

Mrs Miller, who revealed that she had spoken to most of her Cabinet colleagues to reassure them about the issue, insisted that ensuring a “really fair society” should take precedence over considerations of long-term political damage to the Conservative Party over the issue.

Her remarks were made as the Prime Minister will join the large majority of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs in voting for the legalisation of same-sex marriage in the teeth of opposition from Tory traditionalists ranging from the party’s grassroots up to the Cabinet.

Some estimates put the number of Tory MPs against the measure at upwards of 150, including Environment Secretary Owen Paterson among other ministers.

On the eve of the vote, the Chancellor, the Foreign Secretary and Home Secretary sought to win over wavering MPs by insisting gay marriage was “the right thing to do at the right time”.

In a joint letter to The Daily Telegraph, they questioned whether it was “any longer acceptable to exclude people from marriage simply because they love someone of the same sex”.

“Marriage has evolved over time. We believe that opening it up to same-sex couples will strengthen, not weaken, the institution,” they wrote.

“Attitudes towards gay people have changed. A substantial majority of the public now favour allowing same-sex couples to marry, and support has increased rapidly. This is the right thing to do at the right time.”

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling also spoke out in favour - telling gay magazine Attitude it was a “sensible next step” in tackling homophobia in the UK.

“Changing a law has never automatically changed someone’s opinion or belief, but a change in law can result in a more supportive and protective environment,” he wrote.

Mr Grayling said social acceptance of homosexuality over the past two or three generations had been “a real step forward”.

He added: “The Government’s proposals on the recognition of gay marriage are a sensible next step in that evolution. They make it clear that the attitudes of today’s generations are very different to those of the past.

“Of course we need to protect the right of the individual to have a conscience and of religious institutions to follow their own path. But that does not mean that the state has to do the same.”

All three main party leaders are allowing a free vote on what is seen as a conscience issue, although the programme motion for the timetabling of the Bill’s passage through parliament is whipped and could serve as a test of the Prime Minister’s authority.

Labour leader Ed Miliband is expecting in the region of 25 of his own MPs to vote against the plan, although all of the shadow cabinet will support the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at its crucial Second Reading.

But the proposals - which are opposed by the Church of England and its new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby - should still pass easily as they are backed by the vast majority of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs.

Mr Miliband said he would “proudly” vote in favour and would actively urge his MPs to join him in making “an important step forward in the fight for equality in Britain”.

A poll last night suggested Mr Cameron’s drive to legalise gay marriage could cost the Conservatives more votes than it wins.

More than a third (34%) of those taking part in the ComRes survey for ITV News said it made the Conservatives less attractive to them as voters, compared to 15% who said it made the party more appealing.

Voters were divided over whether the coalition Government was right to try to make same-sex marriage legal, with 42% saying they were, against 40% who said they were not.

A poll carried out by The News online showed 63 per cent of people in the area agreed with the proposals.