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By Joseph Watts Political Editor
, Political Editor
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
AN MP has warned that plans to allow gay marriage could lead to vicars getting sued if they refuse to carry out ceremonies on religious grounds.
The comments from Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley come as David Cameron is pushing for changes in the law that would see marriage, currently defined as between a man and a woman, redefined to accommodate same-sex couples.
Mr Ruffley said he supported previous legislation to introduce civil partnerships that saw gay couples gain the same legal rights married couples have, but argued that marriage itself should not be tampered with.
He said: “Of course there are arguments on both sides, but I firmly believe that marriage is defined in the Judeo-Christian tradition as being between a man and a woman.
“I’m particularly concerned that if marriage is redefined then some members of the clergy who, for religious reasons, do not recognise gay marriage, may be open to litigation in the courts. Such litigation down the road is highly undesirable.
“Many members of the gay community who speak to me do not feel particularly strongly about gay marriage. They are content with the status they have in law already under civil partnerships.”
A House of Commons vote on the change could come as early as January, but already 118 out of 303 Conservative MPs, including Mr Ruffley and two others from Suffolk, have signalled they will rebel.
Mr Cameron has said he will allow his MPs to vote as they wish, but if his proposals were ditched it would be a significant personal defeat for the Prime Minister, who sees the issue as symbolic of attempts to modernise the Conservatives.
The other two MPs in the county who have said they would rebel are Suffolk Coastal MP Dr Therese Coffey and Waveney MP Peter Aldous, who said: “Broadly speaking I have expressed my concerns.
“The 2005 civil partnership legislation was much needed and addressed a particular issue with same-sex relationships, as they did not have equal footing in the eyes of the law.
“But as far as this consultation on new proposals, I have concerns that marriage is something that not just the state is involved in but religious organisations and the church.
“I feel uncomfortable with the state redefining the definition on marriage, as was proposed, and I have made the Government aware of my stance.”
Dr Coffey said: “I take a traditional view on marriage; it’s about commitment, but also primarily about family.”