Big divide opens between our MPs over gay marriage

PUBLISHED: 11:17 19 December 2012

Oliver Heald

Oliver Heald

Archant

TORY MPs around Welwyn Hatfield are split over the controversial issue of gay marriage.

This week two – Grant Shapps and Charles Walker – spoke up in favour of same-sex marriage, while two – Oliver Heald and Stephen McPartland – said they would oppose it.

Prime Minister David Cameron backs gay marriage, but the Government has decided to make ceremonies illegal in the Church of England.

Cabinet minister and Welwyn Hatfield MP Grant Shapps says he is in favour – describing it as “their business”.

He told the WHT: “We already have civil partnerships and I think that if people want to get married then that’s their business.”

Asked how he will vote on the issue, he said: “Provided religious organisations can make up their own mind then I’ll vote in favour.”

He added: “It will not be legal to perform same-sex marriages in the Church of England.

“All other churches, synagogues or mosques will be able to make up their own minds.”

And he vowed that no religious institution will compelled to hold gay weddings.

But Solicitor General Oliver Heald, pictured, whose constituency includes Watton-at-Stone and Tewin, is against gay marriage completely.

The country’s second most senior legal appointee said: “I am a traditionalist, so I’m not in favour.

“I’m a supporter of civil partnerships.”

Mr Heald said civil partnerships offered gay couples “an official way” of recognising their relationships and arranging their finances.

He said the status quo “seems to work well”.

Asked how he’d vote on the controversial issue he said: “I’ll be against.”

Christian

He added: “There will be a free vote and I take a Christian view on the matter and believe that marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman.”

Charles Walker, whose Broxbourne constituency includes Cuffley, Goffs Oak and Northaw, said: “I will want to support the right of gay people to marry if and when a vote is held in the House of Commons.

“However, as religions are founded on belief systems you should not and could not compel them to hold gay weddings.

But he added: “I think the Government has got itself into a bit of a pickle over this issue which is a shame because its intentions are well meaning.”

And Knebworth and Codicote’s MP Stephen McPartland said: “I cannot vote in favour of gay marriage.

“I agree that civil partnerships were a positive step forward, but I believe the proposals for gay marriage would lead to the clergy being forced to conduct marriages against their beliefs and values.”

Parliament is expected to vote on the issue before the next General Election.

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