Gay Tory MP Mike Freer ‘respects’ opposition to ‘landmark’ gay marriage vote
PUBLISHED: 16:36 06 February 2013 | UPDATED: 16:36 06 February 2013
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Gay Conservative MP Mike Freer has described the parliamentary vote backing gay marriage as a “major step forward” but insists he will still defend objectors’ “right to disagree”.
The Finchley and Golders Green MP was one of 400 MPs to vote in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couple) Bill in the House of Commons yesterday (Tuesday, February 5), in the face of opposition from 136 of his Tory colleagues.
The Commons backed the legislation by 400 votes to 175, a majority of 225, at the end of a full day’s debate on the bill.
Their decision signifies that they approve the legislation in principle and it will now receive more detailed parliamentary scrutiny.
Speaking after the historic vote, Mr Freer told the Ham&High: “It’s a major step forward – it says to everyone in society, ‘It doesn’t matter who you love, in the eyes of the state you are equal’.
“It’s a landmark and shows that we are a very tolerant society.”
The 52-year-old entered a civil partnership with his partner of 21 years, Angelo Crolla, 52, six years ago and he is now ready to take the step towards full marriage.
“I think we will convert, but whether we go through the fully fledged marriage ceremony we don’t know yet,” said Mr Freer.
Of the 303 Tories voting yesterday, 136 MPs opposed the bill, 127 were in favour, 35 did not vote and five registered an abstention by voting both in favour and against.
Among the objectors was Enfield Southgate MP David Burrowes, who has led a campaign against gay marriage, arguing that marriage is a distinctive union between a man and a woman.
Asked about his Tory colleague’s view, Mr Freer said: “David and I get along fine. We’ve had some very civil discussion – we don’t agree, but that is the nature of democracy.
“Most of my colleagues hold their views on religious grounds and believe that a marriage is a sacred union between a man and a woman.”
Mr Freer was raised as a Christian but has since left the Church of England behind.
“I’m no longer a practising Christian, but I have a huge amount of respect for colleagues that have faith and I will defend their right to disagree with me,” he said.
“One of the churches in the constituency said we don’t agree with your lifestyle but we respect the fact you respect our opinion.
“I have very strong convictions that people have a right to express their different views.”
Reacting to the suggestion homophobia is behind some the objection to gay marriage, he said: “There may be one or two colleagues on both sides (government and opposition) who have some homophobic views, but on the whole I think most people haven’t and they were broadly coming from religious points of view, which I understand.
“There’s been the odd comment that this is a slippery slope that will lead to legalising polygamy and incest – and the comparison of my relationship to that is personally offensive.”
He added: “I don’t believe the legislation will undermine religious marriage, it hasn’t affected Spain (where same-sex marriage was legalised in 2005). The Catholic Church hasn’t collapsed.”