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East Surrey MPs vow to support gay marriage bill

By Surrey Mirror  |  Posted: February 02, 2013

By Michael Davies michael.davies@essnmedia.co.uk

  • MPs will have their first vote on legislation to legalise gay marriage

  • East Surrey MP Sam Gyimah says he will back the legislation as long as protections are added for religious groups

  • Reigate MP Crispin Blunt says the Bill should allow religious organisations to conduct gay marriages if they want to

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EAST Surrey MPs Crispin Blunt and Sam Gyimah have vowed to support a Bill legalising gay marriage when the issue is debated in Parliament next week.

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill is due for its second reading on Tuesday, when it can be voted on for the first time – and Conservative MPs have been allowed a free vote on the controversial legislation.

The 56-page document lays out proposals to legalise gay marriage, but "safeguards" for religious organisations mean they could not be forced to perform ceremonies.

Reigate MP Crispin Blunt said the legislation was an important step in reaching equality for gay couples.

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"The issue of gay marriage has to be dealt with at some point to make sure we're treating everyone equally and that's what this does," he said. "There are concerns within the Conservative party but we have a free vote with this issue and while some of my colleagues may vote against it, I think a majority will vote for it."

Under the proposed Bill, it would still be illegal for gay couples to wed within the Church of England. Mr Blunt says he wants the Bill to go further: "Our position should be to enable Church of England churches who want to conduct same sex marriages to do so," he said.

"The current Bill prevents it and if the Church changes its mind there'll need to be another Bill."

Sam Gyimah, MP for Tandridge and Horley, said he would support the Bill, but only if it included "clear safeguards to protect religious liberty".

He added: "Within the past 200 years there have been substantial changes governing who can get married, where a marriage can take place, and how a marriage can end. It is right that today, same-sex couples are entitled to the same legal protections and freedom from discrimination as opposite-sex couples. For me, this is not a question of politics; it is a social issue whose time has come."

East Surrey reverends were non-committal on the issue when approached by the Mirror.

Reverend Tim Goode of St Luke's Church in Whyteleafe said: "All Church of England clergy make a vow of obedience to our Bishop. That vow isn't just for things we agree with it can be for things we don't agree with. Whether I'm for or against, I'm duty bound by my oath of office to follow what my Bishop says."

Reverend Andrew Rumsey of St Mary's Church in Oxted said: "St Mary's Oxted and St Peter's Tandridge continue to welcome and serve all people within our communities."

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