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Divided opinions on gay marriage issue

By Bedfordshire On Sunday  |  Posted: May 13, 2012

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The issue of whether unions between gay and lesbian couples should be defined as marriage has certainly be a controversial one.

 Kathryn Cain speaks to MPs and local officials about how the public are responding to the idea.

 In March a public consultation was launched asking people to give their views on whether gay and lesbian couples should be allowed to legally marry.

  Currently couples can join in civil partnerships which afford them many of the same rights as a marriage between a man and a woman, however under UK law they are not defined as being married.

  From December last year samesex couples are able to have wedding ceremonies at religious establishments, however no church is obliged to conduct them.

  If the proposals, which are being fiercely opposed by some senior church figures and a number of Conservative MPs, become a reality, same-sex couples would be allowed to marry in a registry office and would allow those already in a civil partnership to covert their union to a marriage.

  However the issue has divided opinion across the county with some senior figures claiming that the institution of marriage should not be altered and others questioning what right the government has to interfere in the church.

Central Bedfordshire Councillor Richard Stay has openly admitted he does not support gay marriage and firmly believes that the institution should remain something that refers only to the relationship between a man and a woman.

  Cllr Stay said: “I like to think of myself as a reasonably tolerant person but I have the view that the institution of marriage is between a man and a woman. It may not be a popular view but I think marriage was intended to be that way for raising children.

  “Changing the institution of marriage would be a step too far.

  Instead of reforming of House of Lords and tabling gay marriage which are hardly life changing events for people in the UK we should be focusing on economic prosperity and paying off the national debt.

  “If it came to it and I was a member of parliament I would vote against it.”

North East Bedfordshire MP Alistair Burt has claimed he will vote no if the issue comes before the House of Commons.

  He said: “This may not come to a vote or a Bill. If it does, I would vote to protect churches rights to decide on what constitutes the sacrament of marriage. I think it is their right to decide that.

  “However I would also vote for the state to determine that lifelong commitment and stability in marriage should be available to all, regardless of sexual orientation.

  It is the breakdown in relationships and their consequences which is the most damaging in UK society, not same sex unions, and marriage is strengthened by being seen as the best chance for that.”

MP for Bedford and Kempston Richard Fuller claims that his constituents similarly feel the government is overstepping the boundary between politics and the church.

Mr Fuller said: “Throughout the rest of the consultation I want to hear from my constituents on this as it is such an important issue.

“I have already had a large number of responses from people mostly wondering why this issue has come forward at this time and expressing their concerns that the government is trying to tell people what marriage should mean when they are already clear on what marriage means to them.”

Mid-Bedfordshire MP, Nadine Dorries, was unavailable for comment on the issue but is known to be vehemently against the proposals.

On the Conservative Home website last week she wrote: “Gay marriage is a policy which has been pursued by the metro elite gay activists and needs to be put into the same bin. I have yet to meet a gay couple in my constituency or beyond who support it; in fact, the reaction has been quite the opposite.

“Gay couples are no different from heterosexual couples and yet this policy transforms them into political agitators who have set themselves against the church and community.” Despite having the support of Prime Minister David Cameron, legislation to allow gay marriage will not be included in the next parliamentary session and was never intended to be mentioned in the Queen’s speech on Wednesday.

However equalities minister Lynne Featherstone has reaffirmed her commitment to the proposals being made into law by 2015.

The issue has also proved controversial in the United States, with President Barack Obama declaring last week that he would support a change in the law on gay marriage.

The UK consultation finishes on June 14.

If you would like to submit a response visit: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/ publications/aboutus/ consultations/equal-civilmarriage/

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