Conservative Oxford MP changes mind to support same-sex marriage after student appeals

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

After receiving a letter of appeal written by presidents of 38 university common room, MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, Nicola Blackwood, has now said she is no longer against marriage equality.

Ms Blackwood, whose constituency contains eight Oxford colleges, received a letter from the junior common room (JCR) and middle common room (MCR) presidents, said she changed her stance on equal marriage, citing the “quadruple lock”, intended to preserve religious freedom, reported

Same-sex couples in England and Wales are set to be allowed to marry, under plans announced by Culture Secretary Maria Miller in the House of Commons, earlier this month.

Mrs Miller took to the despatch box to say she was putting in place a “quadruple lock” of measures to guarantee religious organisations would not have to marry gay couples against their wishes.

Ms Blackwood, who was initially opposed to the proposed legislation, explained to the common room presidents that she had changed her stance after the announcement of the protection for religious groups. She said:

“I have no principled objection to equal marriage in secular institutions. My initial opposition arose from the fact that there was no plan to protect religious institutions from litigation and my current concerns are whether the ‘Quadruple Lock’ will indeed be effective.”

Back in July, the Oxford MP said she was opposed to the proposed legislation, writing: “I intend to vote against the proposals when they come before Parliament. As I currently understand them, the proposed changes will confer no additional legal gains other than those already conferred through civil partnerships.

“Secondly, I am concerned that an unintended consequence of the legislation will be the risk of legal challenges, whether to domestic courts or the ECHR, on the basis of human rights law to religious organisations who for different reasons may choose not to marry same-sex couples.”

Based on this letter, written in July 38 JCR and MCR presidents wrote to Ms Blackwood, asking her to reassess her stance. Their letter read:

“We were appalled to hear of your intention to oppose legislation on equal marriage and believe it inadequately represents your constituency.

“By restricting the LGBTQ community to civil partnerships, you undermine that group and their relationships. How can lesbian and gay communities hope to be seen as equal if the state condones such fundamental discrimination?

“As the MP for half of the city in which we study, we believe that your stance on issues of equality is of great importance, whichever side of the line our votes fall on.”

Ms Blackwood has said the letter was “drafted before the Government’s recent statement announcing their proposals for Equal marriage and pledged to introduce the so-called ‘Quadruple Lock’ to protect religious institutions and individuals from litigation.”

JCR President at the Queen’s College, Jane Cahill, explained why the group sent the letter to their MP. She said: “We really wanted to raise awareness of her position, but more importantly, wanted her to change it. Her arguments to support her views were so astoundingly weak that they demanded a response.”

“I wanted her to see that if she were forced to have a civil partnership she wouldn’t put up with it. I was asking her to try and put herself in my shoes. Most presidents wrote to her personally as well,” she continued.

On Ms Blackwood’s response, Ms Cahill said: “her arguments are still pretty poor, and she hasn’t retracted much of what she said in her letter but it is her vote that matters.”

MCR President of Somerville College, which is inside Ms Blackwood constituency, Tallulah Andrews, said:

“Equality is about more than just equality of benefits. Equality is about seeing the common humanity between people regardless of race, gender, or sexuality. As a dual citizen of Canada and the UK, I’m proud Canada has recognised same-sex marriages since 2005, and I hope the UK, with the support of Ms Blackwood, will join us in 2013.”