Chris Bryant: Tory MP’s response to equal marriage enquiry ‘as cruel as it was offensive’

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A Conservative MP’s response to an enquiry about equal marriage has been called ‘cruel and offensive’ in its treatment of couples who are unable to have children by gay Labour MP Chris Bryant and ‘truly shocking’ by a constituent.

Matthew Offord MP was elected to represent Hendon in 2010 but told a constituent he would not be in favour of the government’s plans to allow gay couples to marry in civil ceremonies.

Approached by a constituent whose civil partner forwarded the response to, Dr Offord said: “Having waited many years to get married I acknowledge the value the commitment brings. It is my strong personal, moral and religious belief that the institution of marriage is to provide the foundation of a stable relationship in which those two people of the opposite sex procreate and raise a child.

“That is physically not possible for same-sex couples so I don’t see the point of introducing a law to allow this. I strongly believe in same-sex couples having the right to a civil registration, in order that they receive the same benefits as opposite-sex couples but not marriage.”

While gay couples’ legal rights are recognised, straight marriage is “woven into the fabric of our nation” and it is the equal marriage proposals’ “effect on our schools, children and teachers that is worrying so many”.

If marriage is redefined, Dr Offord said, the Education Act 1996 meant schools would have “no choice but to give children equivalent teaching” on gay and straight marriages.

He adds: “So what will happen to parents who because of religious, or philosophical beliefs take their children out of lessons? It is simply inconceivable in today’s world where political correctness runs a mock [sic] in our institutions, that there would not be profound consequences for those who hold traditional views.”

Dr Offord said parents who objected to their children being taught about equality of gay and straight marriages would be “treated as bigots and outcasts”, “discriminated against” and “persecuted”.

He added: “And what of the teachers who object to teaching about same sex marriage. Will they face disciplinary action? How will it affect their careers?”

Dr Offord concluded that civil marriage equality would not, in his view, “serve to enhance British society or its values”.

IT Manager Nick Lansley, whose civil partner had written to Dr Offord and received the above response, said it was “truly shocking”.

He continued: “The two disagreeable parts of Offord’s letter are one, that he thinks marriage is just for procreation. OK so same-sex couples can’t ourselves procreate but we can (and do) adopt. Also, what about the elderly, infirm and other newly-weds who can’t – or just don’t want to – have children?

“Two, that parents with ‘traditional’ views will get into trouble for withdrawing kids from classes that mention same-sex marriage for religious reasons. First of all, if a school can allow, say, atheists parents to keep their kids away from religious studies then the mechanisms for parental-requested exclusions are already in place. But hey what’s wrong with kids knowing that being gay, falling mutually in love with someone of the same gender and marrying them is anything other than fantastic?”

Gay Labour MP Chris Bryant said: “The argument that marriage is just about procreation is as cruel to those straight couples who find love past the age of childbearing, are not able to have children or indeed choose not to have children as it is offensive to gay couples, whether they choose to adopt or not.

“And the passage about schooling not only veers towards calling for a reintroduction of that bigoted piece of legislation, Section 28, but is laughable in suggesting that legalising same sex marriage would increase prejudice.”

Dr Offord’s office declined to comment further this morning.