Tory MPs split over same sex marriage vote

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THE city’s leading politicians are split over today’s vote to allow gay marriage in England and Wales.

MPs Mark Lancaster and Iain Stewart will take opposite sides in the debate, with MK South representative Mr Stewart voting in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

Mr Lancaster is set to oppose the Bill, which he says “may inadvertently be removing people’s rights for religious freedom.”

The Bill has split the Conservative party, with political experts suggesting that more than 120 Tory MPs will vote against the Government’s plans. Both the city’s MP’s are Conservatives.

Under the new legislation same-sex couples would be able to get married in both civil and religious ceremonies in England and Wales, where a religious institution has formally consented.

The plans have also split many in the religious community.

Reverend Tim Norwood, a member of the Ministerial Team at the Church of Christ the Cornerstone and the Anglican Area Dean, told the Citizen that some members would be “put in a difficult position if the rules changed.”

Mr Stewart, who is openly gay, said he would be voting in favour of the Bill.

“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.”

But his Milton Keynes counterpart, Mr Lancaster, who represents MK North, said that despite backing civil partnerships, he couldn’t back the Bill.

“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,” he said.

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

Rev Norwood told the Citizen: “The churches are not of one mind. A number of church leaders are very much opposed to the legislation and are keen to promote the traditional view of marriage.

“There is a real concern that some members may be put in a difficult position if the rules changed and there is a fear they might be disciplined if they don’t teach something because they don’t believe in it.

“There are a number of different opinions though. A number feel strongly that the concept is wrong and a lot who feel strongly that change is necessary.”

Labour Parliamentary candidate for MK South, Andrew Pakes, said: “I welcome the vote on equal marriage and hope that both our MPs will go through the yes lobby on Tuesday afternoon.

“I am pleased to see broad cross-party support for the change building on the success of civil partnerships. I don’t believe that the person you love should determine the rights you have. This is another step forward in the fight for a more equal, fairer Britain.”

The vote will take place tonight.