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'Balanced' gay marriage plans spark backbencher anger

Maria Miller has told ITV News she hopes the fact that same-sex marriage will remain illegal within the Church of England will provide reassurance for MPs opposed to the new law.

The Equalities Minister stressed repeatedly in her statement to the Commons outlining the plans that the new proposals balanced the rights of gay couples with people of faith who opposed the change.

But the exchanges that followed underlined that sharp division remains within the Conservative Cabinet minister's own party, as ITV News's Deputy Political Editor Chris Ship reports:

Labour MP slams CofE 'lock' in same-sex marriage plans

Labour MP Chris Bryant (Rhondda), a former Anglican clergyman, said the same-sex marriage legislation should not include such an "ultimate lock" which prevented the church from easily changing its mind in future.

Under Government legislation outlined in the Commons, it will be illegal of the Church of England and the Church of Wales to marry same-sex couples, even if some of their clergy want to carry out the ceremonies.

To shouts of protest from the Tory benches, Mr Bryant asked Maria Miller:

Will you consider not putting such an ultimate lock on the Church of England so there is genuine freedom for the church so that one day, just like the Church of England all voted to keep slavery and kept slavery for another 30 years, they can eventually change their mind?

The Equalities Minister replied:

The Church of England can, of course, come forward with a change of view at any time and we can consider the appropriate action to be taken.

Tory MP: Less parents may wed because of same-sex plans

Amid the backbencher opposition to same-sex marriage, Tory MP Mark Pawsey (Rugby) said the proposals could impact whether parents or people planning to have children choose to marry.

He said nearly half of the babies born in the UK had parents who were not married and added:

Given that marriage rates in Spain and Holland collapsed after same-sex marriage was introduced there, are you not concerned that even fewer people intending to have children will choose to get married?

Tory MPs: Constituents opposed to same-sex marriage

The same-sex proposals outlined by Conservative minister Maria Miller were met with entrenched opposition from the Tory backbenchers behind her.

Martin Vickers told her it was a "major social change that many of those we represent find unacceptable."

He said the measure should be allowed to "evolve rather than be pushed through".

North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale said the letters he had received from his constituents suggested 98 per cent were against the plan.

Sir Roger told MPs he chaired the committee hearings on the legislation which enabled civil partnerships, and said assurances were then given that it would not lead to same-sex marriages.

Mrs Miller told him there were "important differences of perception" between civil partnerships and marriage.

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'Banned' church wants to celebrate same-sex unions

St Botolph's, which describes itself as an "inclusive church in the City of London", has protested the Government's announcement that the new legislation still makes it illegal for the established Churches of England and Wales to conduct same-sex marriages.

Proposals 'respect' same-sex couples and people of faith

In her statement to the Commons, Maria Miller said today's proposals protected "important religious freedoms while ensuring that same-sex couples have the same freedom to marry as opposite-sex couples".

The Conservative Equalities Minister later pleaded for both sides in the row to show "respect" as she was confronted with opposition to the plan from MPs in her own party.

Shadow equalities minister Yvette Cooper condemned the "hysterical" language used by Tory MPs and churches opposed to the move.

Fairness 'at the heart' of Government's marriage proposal

The Government has to balance the importance of treating all couples equally and fairly with respect for religious organisation's rights for their own beliefs.

We need to be fair to same sex couples. The state should not be banning them from such a great institution.

Equally, we need to be fair to people of faith and (so) religious protections that I will set out will ensure that fairness is at the heart of our proposals.

– Maria Miller, outlining the same-sex marriage proposals
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