Lib Dem MP Gordon Birtwistle defends voting against equal marriage

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Liberal Democrat MP Gordon Birtwistle has defended voting against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill and has cited opposition from a local mosque.

The Burnley MP told the Lancashire Telegraph he had received a 500-signature petition from a Burnley mosque, urging him to reject the bill.

Mr Birtwistle said: “I have been against it right from the beginning because I believe that’s the view of the vast majority of people in Burnley.”

The MP was one of four Lib Dem MPs to vote against the bill at third reading. They included former children’s minister Sarah Teather, along with Sir Alan Beith and Dr John Pugh.

Nine of the party’s MPs were absent and so abstained on Tuesday’s vote, including Deputy Leader Simon Hughes.

Mr Hughes said during the debate that he believes marriage should be “between one man and one woman”.

The openly bisexual MP said he thought that marriage was “gender complimentary”, and that it should be between straight couples only.

“I believe that marriage is ordained by God. I believe it is traditionally ordained by God as between one man and one woman”.

Liberal Democrat President Tim Farron, who is seen as a possible successor to the party’s current leader, Nick Clegg, also abstained.

Peers in the House of Lords will start debating the bill on 3 June.

Gordon Birtwistle became the first Liberal Democrat MP to voice opposition to the government’s marriage reforms in December of last year, he said: “I will vote against gay marriage. Civil partnerships are fine. Gay marriage is just not on.”