Horsham MP Francis Maude’s support of gay marriage is no secret and much of his opinion on the subject was shaped by his knowledge of his own brother’s wrestling with his sexuality.
His brother Charles died of Aids in 1993 aged just 42.
Mr Maude was asked by one of his constituents to set out his views in a letter, which he has released to the County Times this week.
He wrote: “Like most Conservatives, I believe that marriage is one of the most important institutions we have.
“It binds us together, brings long-term commitment and stability, and makes society stronger.
“It is also an institution which has a long history of continuous evolution. As society has changed, so it has changed, and become available to an increasingly broad range of people.
“Marriage in the 21st century is now an inclusive, not exclusive, institution. It is available to all adults who are prepared to state publicly their commitment to each other.
“Except, that is, if you happen to love someone of the same sex. I don’t think this is right.
“The state cannot justify preventing people from marrying unless there are extremely good reasons for doing so.
“However, freedom of religious belief is as important to me as equality for all before the law.’’
Mr Maude was also careful to outline the protections in place for religious organisations if it became law.
He said: “Religious organisations play a central, important role in our society; the beliefs their members hold sacred must be respected.
“That is why I have always been absolutely clear that I would never support a Bill which would encroach on religious freedoms.
“It is on this basis that the Government has now brought forward proposals to enable same-sex couples to marry in civil ceremonies.
“Religious ceremonies will also be available, but only where:
1. The umbrella religious organisation has “opted in” to offering same-sex marriages;
2. The presiding minister has consented to performing same-sex marriages; and,
3. The premises in which the marriage is to be conducted has been registered.
“There will also be a ‘quadruple lock’ of legal protections which will ensure that no religious organisation or individual minister could be forced into conducting same-sex marriage ceremonies:
1. Firstly, any attempted legal action in Strasbourg would have to be brought against the Government, and the legislation will state explicitly that no religious organisation, or individual minister, can be compelled to marry same-sex couples or to permit this to happen on their premises;
2. On top of this, the Equality Act 2010 will be amended to ensure that no discrimination claims can be brought against religious organisations or individual ministers for refusing to marry a same-sex couple or allowing their premises to be used for this purpose;
3. Furthermore, it will be unlawful for religious organisations, or their ministers, to marry same-sex couples unless they have expressly opted to do so and the legislation will make it clear that no law requires any religious organisation to opt-in; and,
4. The legislation will explicitly state that it will not be lawful for the Church of England and the Church in Wales to marry same-sex couples. The Church of England’s Canon law does not provide for the marriage of same-sex couples and this will continue to be the case.
“That means that it would require a change in both primary and Canon law before the Church of England would be able to opt in to conduct same-sex marriages.
“I believe these proposals strike the right balance, protecting important religious freedoms, while ensuring that same-sex couples will be able marry just like opposite sex couples.
“I strongly believe they will strengthen, not weaken the institution of marriage.’’
Page 14: How our MPs voted in the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill