By Ian Dipple Wednesday 06 February 2013 Updated: 06/02 11:51
REDDITCH MP Karen Lumley has defended her decision to vote against legalising gay marriage calling it the most difficult decision of her political life.
Mrs Lumley was among the 136 Tory MPs who opposed the introduction of the new law during its second reading on Tuesday, which was passed with 400 voting for and only 175 against.
Mrs Lumley was joined by the MP for Wyre Forest Mark Garnier in voting no while the MPs for Bromsgrove, Worcester and Mid Worcestershire supported it.
She told the Standard she had listened to her constituents after receiving 252 letters from residents, only two of which supported the move, while she also felt the bill in its current form was flawed and wanted to see provision for heterosexual couples to be able to have a civil partnership if they did not want to get married.
"I'm not against gay marriage but it's important we get this right. This bill was not in our manifesto, was rushed and the Prime Minister said before the election he had no plans to introduce changes to marriage laws. If it had of been in our manifesto people would have been talking about this - there needs to be more discussion," she said.
"Three of my best friends in Parliament are gay and I had a difficult conversation with them about this, Tuesday was a difficult day, probably the most difficult of my career.
"I'm not convinced this was the right time or the right bill to put forward, I think people in Redditch have other issues they would rather I was talking about like the economy."
But an openly gay Labour borough councillor has accused Mrs Lumley of 'listening to the minority'.
Coun Joe Baker, who represents Greenlands, said he was shocked and disappointed Mrs Lumley had chosen not to support the gay community in Redditch.
"As a gay man at long last I have the same right as everybody else and can choose to marry if I want to and that's all I ever wanted," he said.
"Emily Pankhurst and the suffragettes fought for the right for women like Karen to have the same equality as a man in Parliament and she used that equality to vote against gay people having equality with regards gay marriage.
"The ins and outs of the bill still have to be gone through. Tuesday was about whether or not MPs supported the principle of gay marriage. If Mrs Lumley is not against gay marriage then why did she vote against it?"
The law allows same sex couples to marry in religious and civil ceremonies if the religious institution consents, but the Church of England is exempt from performing them.
Dr John Inge, the Bishop of Worcester, said the Church continued to hold the view marriage was a union between one man and one woman although he recognised there were differing views.
"I do not however believe that holding to a traditional understanding of marriage is, or should be, regarded as a discriminatory position," he said.
Bishop John added they would continue to raise questions about the implications of the bill for wider society such as the significance for raising children as part of the purpose of marriage, the impact on teaching in schools, the work of chaplains and others with religious convictions working in the public sector and the speed the bill was being rushed through when it was not in any party manifesto or the coalition agreement.
"The lack of a clear mandate and the absence of an overwhelming public consensus for change ought at least to give pause for thought."
The bill will now be scrutinised and go to the House of Lords before coming back to MPs for a final decision.
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