Tory MP David Burrowes: ‘The same-sex marriage bill resembles the shark in Jaws’

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Conservative MP David Burrowes has reiterated calls for a referendum on same-sex marriage.

Writing for Conservative Home, the north London, Enfield-Southgate MP warned that the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill resembles the shark in the 1970s thriller movie, Jaws.

“For many colleagues, the news that the issue of gay marriage is coming back to the Commons next week is like those Jaws film trailers. Just when you thought it was safe to return to a new Parliamentary session, focussing on the key issues facing the country, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill returns to infest MPs.”

The House of Commons will debate the bill as part of its third reading on 20 and 21 May.

Mr Burrowes remains unconvinced by Culture Secretary and Minister for Equalities, Maria Miller, who has repeatedly said the bill protects religious freedoms.

Mr Burrowes warned: “Maria Miller would have to be cast as the town mayor trying to reassure everyone that there is no danger in the Parliamentary sea. The Secretary of State for Equalities has told MPs that she ‘would never introduce a bill that encroaches or threatens religious freedoms’. The problem is that a majority of Conservative MPs were not convinced by her assurances when they voted against the bill. Many more MPs from all parties were also not convinced, but were hoping that the committee stage would at least provide greater protection for freedom of conscience and religious liberty.

Maria Miller dismissed concerns from Tory opponents that the European Court of Human Rights could order British churches to marry gay couples in February of this year.

“It is simply inconceivable that the court would require a faith group to conduct same-sex marriages in breach of its own doctrines – not my words but the words of the eminent QCs, Lord Pannick, Baroness Kennedy and Lord Lester,” Mrs Miller said in the House of Commons during February’s second reading debate.

A group of MPs has been taking detailed evidence on the proposals in a public committee since February.

The House of Commons Public Bill Committee received testimony from both advocates and critics of the bill.

David Burrowes was a member of the committee and accused PinkNews of “fomenting hostility” and “abuse” against equal marriage opponents during an exchange with PinkNews and Out4Marriage founder Benjamin Cohen. 

Mr Burrowes tabled an amendment urging for registrars to be allowed to opt out of performing marriages for gay couples, and also for a referendum on same-sex marriage.

However, the amendments failed to be taken up by the rest of committee and Mr Burrowes remains dissatisfied by the process.

“However, the 13 sittings of the Bill Committee only resulted in the government listening and responding courteously to the numerous amendments tabled by me and three other dissenters,” Mr Burrowes said on Conservative Home. “Cheered on by hand-picked Labour MPs, who did not allow any dissenters in their ranks, not one word of the bill was amended. BBC’s Mark d’Arcy was not far off when he commentated on the committee’s deliberations as ‘a bit of a ritual. The dissenters dissent and the supporters support, and the whole thing is as mannered as a minuet danced at the court of Louis XVI.’”