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Marriage equality splits the Tories

by Peter Smith, MercatorNet

[...]  The Catholic Voices website has a good selection of the views of some traditional marriage supporters from across the political parties. A friend summarised the positions thus on Twitter: the pros had an adult- and wedding-centric view of marriage; the antis, a child- and family-oriented view.

Two interesting aspects of the vote stand out. First, 400 MPs voted for the measure and 175 against it. Of the opponents, 136 were Tories. In contrast, only 127 Conservatives voted for same-sex marriage. This marks a substantial split in the Conservative Party. It isn’t just about the nature of marriage, but also about the direction in which David Cameron and his faction are taking the Party. Newspapers in the weekend before the vote were full of talk of a coup against Cameron, as the economy remains in the doldrums. Cameron did not have a clear mandate for his actions either. A black MP, Adam Afriyie, the representative for well-heeled Windsor electorate, was named as a potential contender. The scuttlebutt has gone as fast as it came, but it didn’t hurt his chances for Afriyie to oppose gay marriage prominently.
 
With the problems over legal protections for teachers and clergy still in the air, some expect a bigger revolt at the third reading. What I will be interested to see is, by that stage, whether the voting habits of Catholic MPs from across the parties have changed. The liberal British Catholic publication, The Tablet, analysed their votes: out of the 82 Catholic MPs, 47 – almost 60 per cent – were in favour of same-sex marriage. Of these, 32 were Labour members, which indicates that they likely chose the party line over faith to some degree (Labour MPs would have delighted in Cameron’s motion being defeated by his own party). Tory Ministers Iain Duncan-Smith and Patrick McLoughlin, the Work and Pensions Secretary and Transport Secretary respectively, voted with the Government; the best they could have hoped to do was abstain, given the three-line whip imposed by the Conservative whips.
 
What makes this surprising is that the Catholic Church usually influences the votes of its confessional parliamentarians quite well. As the Church was the principal opponent to same-sex marriage, this should have been especially true in this case. By the third reading, expect some quite pointed words to be spoken softly into the ears of supporters of the Government plan.
 
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