Tories split as Commons passes gay marriage vote
Published 06/02/2013 | 04:00
DAVID Cameron was accused of dividing Britain's Conservative party as more Tory MPs voted against legalising gay marriage than voted in favour.
The prime minister won his first Commons battle to legalise same-sex marriage by a margin of 400 votes to 175.
But his victory came at the cost of a major split in the Conservative Party, with more than half of his MPs refusing to back him. Such was the scale of the opposition that ministers conceded last night that the legislation may now need to be changed before future votes.
Only 126 of the 303 Conservative MPs last night joined Mr Cameron in voting for gay marriage. 134 voted against and 43 others abstained.
Among the Tories voting against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill were several ministers, including two Cabinet members: Owen Paterson, environment secretary, and David Jones, Welsh secretary.
Other ministers included David Lidington, the Europe minister, Andrew Robathan and Mark Francois from the Ministry of Defence, and Jeremy Wright, a justice minister.
Among the ministers who abstained were Philip Hammond, the Defence Secretary, and Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General.
Tory opponents later accused Mr Cameron of dividing the party and vowed further parliamentary resistance to the controversial changes.
David Burrowes, a backbench opponent of the bill said: "We are divided, as is the country. It is unprecedented to have so few government MPs voting against a government bill."
After six hours of often emotional debate, the historic result was greeted by applause from campaigners in the public gallery of the Commons.
Mr Cameron, who described gay marriage as "an important step forward for our country", smiled broadly as the result was revealed. Nick Clegg called the vote "a landmark for equality in Britain". Ed Miliband said it was "a proud day".
But Mr Cameron's decision to push through the legislation has left him in a minority within his own party on the issue.
Sir Gerald Howarth, a former minister who voted No, accused him of turning the Conservative Party against itself.
Minsters insisted the new law will not mean any church is forced to hold gay weddings. The Church of England is specifically exempt from the legislation, the government says.
The bill will now go to 'committee stage' in the Commons, before passing to the House of Lords. (© Daily Telegraph London)