Mark Lancaster opposes Government on same sex marriage vote

Mark Lancaster
Mark Lancaster

MARK Lancaster was among 136 rebel Conservative MPs who voted against same-sex marriage in England and Wales last night.

MPs approved the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill by 400 to 175 despite the opposition of almost half of Tory MPs.

Mr Lancaster, the MP for Milton Keynes North, was one of eight whips who went against leader David Cameron.

His fellow city MP Iain Stewart voted in favour of the Bill.

Yesterday, Mr Lancaster told the Citizen he believed the Bill “may inadvertently be removing people’s rights for religious freedom.”

Speaking prior to the vote, he said: ““There are elements of the bill that I strongly support such as strengthening civil partnerships, but I am uncomfortable that different faith groups are not being treated equally and that in the Government’s effort to deliver equality it may inadvertently be removing people’s rights for religious freedom.

“Until these freedoms can be guaranteed I am not comfortable supporting the bill.”

MP for Milton Keynes South, Mr Stewart, also speaking to this newspaper before the vote, said: “I am supporting the Bill. In the eyes of the law, I think we should support people who want to take the responsible step to formalise their relationship, look after each other in good times and bad and enjoy the other benefits of marriage, irrespective of sexual orientation,” he said.

“There is a wide spectrum of views in the country on this matter. I think it is possible both to allow those who want to take this step to do so, while respecting the views of those who disagree with it.

“The critical point is that no church or religious group should be forced to recognise gay marriage or be compelled to hold such ceremonies on their premises if it is against their beliefs. I am satisfied by the legal protections that are being put in place.

“Other countries like Canada and Spain have managed it perfectly well and so can we.”

And even his political opponent, Andrew Pakes, was full of praise for Mr Stewart.

Labour’s candidate for MK South at the next general election said: “I was really pleased to see such overwhelming support for equal marriage and people from all parties joining together for equality.

“Iain Stewart gave a great speech in favour of equality that summed up the views of the many people in the city who have spoken to me about this issue.

“As a young, growing city this is the right thing for us. I am disappointed that our other MP voted against the change.”