Michael Gove seeks to reassure Tory equal marriage critics in front of committee

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Education Secretary Michael Gove has again sought to reassure critical Conservative MPs that the government’s same-sex marriage bill for England and Wales poses no threat to teachers who disagree with the reform.

Appearing on Tuesday in front of a committee of MPs that are studying the bill, the senior Tory cabinet minister was quizzed about the implications of the measure for the teaching of sex and religious education in schools

Tory MP David Burrowes, a staunch equal marriage critic, asked Mr Gove whether parents would be able to take their children out of RE, sex education and other classes in order to avoid hearing about same-sex marriage.

Mr Gove replied: “I cannot see what the concern is here. By definition, if you express a view reasonably and you explain what your own position is, there is no problem on any issue… the idea that this legislation changes the position of teachers perplexes me.”

He added: “It seems to me curious to imagine on this issue, as distinct from any other, that teachers would take leave collectively of their senses and obligations to young minds and seek to turn themselves either into latter-day Torquemadas or anything else.”

Mr Gove also responded dismissively to suggestions from the former children’s minister Tim Loughton, who served in the Department for Education until last September, and said that teachers might be disciplined for calling same-sex marriage “a pretend marriage”:

Mr Gove replied: “I don’t’ know any teachers who think ‘do you know what, in the next  hour as we discuss whatever might be, I think my most important aim in the 60 minutes available to me with these young people is to explain why I think this is a ‘pretend marriage'”.

Mr Loughton replied that “that’s not the question”, to which Mr Gove hit back “well, that’s my answer”.