Tobias Ellwood MP: ‘I cannot support the Government’ on same-sex marriage proposal

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Conservative MP for Bournemouth East, Tobias Ellwood, has told a PinkNews reader that despite him being a “progressive Conservative”, he can not vote to make same-sex marriage legal.

Mr Ellwood who is the Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister for Europe, David Lidington has always been absent from votes relating to LGBT issues since being elected an MP in 2005.

Writing to a PinkNews reader, he claimed that there was no call from society for the change in the law, that most gay people he spoke to were “mostly ambivalent” about the issue and that the policy was not promised in the Conservative’s election manifesto. As a Conservative MP, Mr Ellwood stood on the Conservative’s Equalities Contract that stated, “[we] will also consider the case for changing the law to allow civil partnerships to be called and classified as marriage.”

MPs will vote on equal marriage on Tuesday 5 February when the House of Commons considers the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

In his letter to our reader, Mr Ellwood said:-

“I am naturally a progressive Conservative, balancing the need to protect British values whilst recognising that society must advance to match a world where the pace of change is now so fast that legislation can sometimes struggle to keep up.

In the case of a Parliamentary free vote it is therefore a case of balancing my own views with the opinions expressed by constituents, key stakeholders and community leaders directly impacted by any change in legislation. Like many Conservatives, I believe that marriage is one of the most important institutions we have. The principles of long-term commitment and responsibility which underpin it bind society together and make it stronger.

I should admit that I was a little surprised to hear the news that same sex marriage proposals were to be moved forward. It was not, after all in our Manifesto, or in the Coalition Agreement. I was also not aware of a clarion call from any corner of our society for this change, but I did remain open minded enough to see how the details of the proposal would develop. After all, marriage as an institution has had a long history of change and has become available to an increasingly broad range of people. Indeed the changing definition of marriage has allowed the historically unequal status of men and women to be challenged.

I have concluded that I cannot support the Government on this proposal for three reasons:-

Firstly, now that the Bill has been published there are a number of technical issues which mean any new legislation, involving recently added opt ins (such as the Church of England being exempt) actually defeats its original purpose. There are also questions over the legality of how the subject might be taught within schools.

Secondly, having spoken to a number of people in the gay community to ask if there is a call for same sex marriage, views were mixed and mostly ambivalent.

And finally, in the eight years that I have had the honour to serve as MP for Bournemouth East, there has never been an issue where I have received correspondence in the hundreds speaking almost unanimously against a proposal.

As I have already stated, the evolution of marriage over time has allowed the institution to adapt as society progresses. The scrutiny under which today’s Parliament now finds itself allows more of the nation to participate in debates than ever before. In my view it is clear that there is no call from society for these changes to be made today.”

Publisher’s Note
Mr Ellwood complained about the original title of this article, ‘Tobias Ellswood MP: I’m a ‘progressive Conservative’ but I will vote against gays marrying’. He said that it did not accurately reflect the content of the article, which remains in full above, and that has not been edited. We have altered the headline to ‘Tobias Ellwood MP: ‘I can not support the Government’ on same-sex marriage proposal’.

The headline also contained a spelling mistake, with an additional ‘s’ erroneously inserted in his surname.

We apologise for giving the impression that Mr Ellwood would vote against the bill, when he instead said that he “cannot support” it.

The article was published before the vote on the bill’s second reading, that in the end Mr Ellswood did not participate in. He did later vote on the programme motion, a whipped vote. If he had have voted against the programme motion, he would have had to resign as a parliamentary private secretary (PPS) to the Minister for Europe.