Tory MOD minister Mark Francois says he’s committed to equality in the armed forces — despite voting against same-sex marriage

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Conservative Defence Minister Mark Francois says the government is committed to LGBT equality in the armed forces after it was pointed out only 1 MOD minister voted in favour of the same-sex marriage bill.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, the most senior member of the Ministry of Defence was absent from this month’s Commons Vote of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

Although he was on government business, Mr Hammond had already been identified as a staunch critic of David Cameron’s reform.

The Conservative MP for Runnymede and Weybridge in Surrey first went public about his opposition to the measure in May of last year when he said equal marriage was “too controversial”.

Middle-ranking Conservative defence ministers Andrew Robathan and Mark Francois, voted against – Philip Dunne did not vote.

Junior Conservative Defence Minister Andrew Murrison was the only MOD minister to vote in favour.

Junior Conservative Defence Minister Lord Astor of Hever could not vote with MPs in either direction as he is a member of the House of Lords.

On Monday, in the House of Commons, Labour MP Steve Rotheram asked Defence Minister Mark Francois “Given that only one of the Minister’s Defence colleagues voted in favour of equal marriage, can he explain what message he thinks that sends about this government’s commitment to equality in our armed forces?

Mr Francois replied: “I remind the Honorable Gentleman that that was a free vote. With regard to the other issue he raised, we intend to introduce an option for members of the armed forces to record their sexual orientation on our joint personnel administration system if they so wish.

“I take it that that is a change he would welcome. In the meantime, we have expanded our recruit trainee survey to give personnel the option of providing their sexual orientation if they wish to do so.”

In response to Mr Rotheram’s question about MOD support to gay people in the armed forces, Mr Francois said: “A wide range of support is available to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of the armed forces, including LGBT forums and an employee network site, Proud2Serve, which provides them with a key communication tool.

“In addition, all members of the armed forces are supported by a network of equality and diversity advisers, who are trained to provide support on a range of equality and diversity issues.”

On 5 February, MPs voted in favour of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill by 400 to 175, a majority of 225.

126 Conservatives voted for marriage equality, while 134 voted against.

Yesterday, the first clause of the bill passed a House of Commons committee that has been scrutinising it this month.

The bill still faces further approval by MPs and peers in the House of Lords before it can be signed into law.