Local MPs divided on gay marriages

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Two local Tory MPs are split over the controversial issue of how marriage will be defined in the 21st century.

They have spoken out following Prime Minister David Cameron’s highly publicised determination for gay couples to have the opportunity to wed.

Wyre and Preston North Conservative MP Ben Wallace says the proposed redefinition of marriage is unnecessary, because legal rights for same sex couples have already been established through the creation of civil partnerships.

He joined a group of 58 Parliamentarians who say the Government has no mandate to change the legal definition of marriage from that of a union between a man and a woman.

They spoke out in a letter to a national paper declaring they were united in “supporting the institution of marriage defined in law as a union between a man and a woman.”

The group argues there is no electoral mandate for reform of the present law, stressing at the last election none of the three main parties stood on a platform to redefine marriage.

Nor had it featured in the Coalition’s Programme for Government.

Their letter continues: “These facts alone should have led to extreme caution on the part of those calling for this change to be made.

“Instead the Government is ignoring the overwhelming public response against the plans.

“The consultation has ignored the 500,000 British residents in favour of anonymous submissions from anyone anywhere in the world. We believe the Government does not have a mandate to redefine marriage.”

Mr Wallace and his co-signatories acknowledge there will be a free vote in Parliament as an issue of conscience.

But he warns: “We will be seeking legal guarantees of the same freedom of conscience for our constituents and religious organisations to teach, preach and express a traditional view of marriage.”

Meanwhile, fellow Conservative Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Eric Ollerenshaw told Parliament: “I am prepared to support this measure on the grounds of equality before the law, provided that religious freedom is protected.”

But he outlined concerns that teachers of particular faiths, whether in faith or non-faith schools in the state sector, might be expected to teach something that goes against their conscience.

Maria Miller, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, introduced a Commons debate on the Government’s proposals to enable same sex couples to marry

But she wants a reassurance that no church or minister would be compelled to conduct a same sex marriage.

And she moved to he reassure Mr Ollerenshaw saying: “Nothing will change in what children are taught.

“Teachers will continue to be able to describe their own belief that marriage is between a man and a woman while, importantly, acknowledging that there can also be same-sex marriages.

“In faith schools in particular, people will want to ensure that the beliefs of that faith are clearly and well articulated for children.”