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By Joseph Watts Political editor
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
AN EAST Anglian MP has signed a letter accusing the Government of ignoring public opinion over gay marriage.
Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley, pictured, was among almost 60 who signed the letter after Culture Secretary Maria Miller announced plans to allow same-sex couples to marry last week.
The letter reads: “We are united in supporting the institution of marriage defined in law as a union between a man and a woman. We recognise the value of a loving and committed relationship and we respect civil partnership, but affirm the distinctive value of marriage reflecting the complementarity of a man and woman often evidenced in parenthood.”
Currently gay couples can enter into civil partnerships that give them almost the same legal rights as married couples.
Proposals which Prime Minister David Cameron backs would see marriage redefined, so that its current definition of being between a man and a woman would be altered to accommodate same-sex couples. However, the Church of England and its Welsh counterpart will be banned in law from offering same-sex marriages. Other religious organisations will be able to “opt in” to holding ceremonies, the Culture Secretary announced last week.
The Government says it carried out a consultation, but the MPs’ letter argued that half a million people had signed a petition opposing the proposed change. It said: “At the last election, none of the three main parties stood on a platform to redefine marriage. It was not contained in any of their manifestos, nor did it feature in the coalition’s programme for government.
“These facts alone should have led to extreme caution on the part of those calling for this change to be made. Instead the Government is ignoring the overwhelming public response against the plans.” The Government has said no religious institution would be forced to carry out same-sex marriages if it did not want to.
However, Mr Ruffley has previously warned any change could leave churches open to being sued if they refused marry people.
The letter, also signed by a handful of Labour MPs, added: “The proposed redefinition of marriage is unnecessary, given the legal rights established through civil partnerships.”
A Bill is expected at the end of January with changes potentially passed through parliament by the summer.
Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey and Waveney MP Peter Aldous have also said they would oppose legislation to change the definition of marriage.