David Cameron sticks to his guns on gay marriage amid backbench rebellion
Published 10/12/2012 | 13:26
DAVID Cameron has stood firm on his backing for gay marriage amid backbench rebellion on the proposal.
The Prime Minister is facing fierce criticism from Conservative MPs for supporting the idea, with one warning that it was "barking mad".
The British Government is expected to set out its plans as early as tomorrow after a consultation on measures to allow homosexual couples to marry.
Up to 130 Tory MPs are tipped to vote against legislation, which is expected early next year and on which Mr Cameron has promised a free vote.
Backbencher David TC Davies said the plans went "against what a lot of people feel very strongly about, particularly within the Conservative Party".
"There is a political calculation here, at some level, that this is going to be good and if we go ahead with it David Cameron's going to be carried shoulder high back into Number 10 by Stonewall activists, and it simply isn't going to happen," he told the BBC.
"What is going to happen is that we're going to lose a large number of very loyal activists who've gone out and campaigned for us over the years and who don't like this idea, so politically it's barking mad."
The Prime Minister's official spokesman said today: "People have strong views on this issue. The Prime Minister has strong views as well, and he thinks gay people should not be excluded from marriage.
"We will come forward with our proposals in the next few days. The Prime Minister's made clear that it will be a free vote for Members of Parliament."
Under the proposals, churches and other venues will be allowed to "opt in" to holding civil marriage ceremonies.
Ministers will offer a guarantee that no institution will be forced to marry gay people on their premises - but Tory MPs and religious groups have questioned whether it would stand up to challenges under the Human Rights Act.
"We will make absolutely clear that if a church or a synagogue or a mosque doesn't want to have gay marriage it won't have to and it won't be forced to," Mr Cameron's spokesman said.
Mr Davies attracted criticism on Twitter after suggesting in an interview yesterday that most parents did not want their children to be gay.
"I think most people are very tolerant and have no problem at all if people are gay but, and I hate to say this in a way because I expect it's going to cause controversy, but I think most parents would prefer their children not to be gay, knowing most parents want grandchildren if nothing else," he said.
Mr Davies said he was not sure the Government could guarantee churches would not be forced to hold gay marriage ceremonies given the power of European courts.
"What I'm concerned about is what we were originally given a consultation on, and that is having gay marriage recognised by law which opens the door to all churches being forced to do that," Mr Davies said.
The MP today took to Twitter to say he had once fought a gay boxer and denied that he was bigoted.
"Once fought gay boxer. Respect & like.trained with after bout so not bigoted. activists calm down- listen to other views."