Sir Gerald Howarth: The ‘wretched’ equal marriage bill was ‘bulldozed’ through Parliament
Tory backbencher Sir Gerald Howarth, who famously warned of “aggressive homosexuals”, could not hide his disappointment whilst speaking in the Commons during Tuesday’s same-sex marriage debate.
The Aldershot MP and former defence minister accused the government of bulldozing the “wretched” legislation through Parliament and ignoring the views of grassroots Tories.
He said: “I have to say that it is astonishing that a bill for which there is absolutely no mandate, against which a majority of Conservatives voted against, has been bulldozed through both Houses and just two hours of debate tonight is an absolute parliamentary disgrace.
“I think the government should think very carefully in future if they want the support of these benches, offending large swathes of the Conservative Party is not a good way of going about it.”
Sir Gerald added: “I do advise the House to be very careful. There are lots of people out there now who despite all that’s been said here will feel unable or inhibited from expressing their true opinions that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.
“Because we live in a politically correct society and it’s going to be very interesting to see what happens to teachers. How many teachers will feel able to express their views even in denominational schools for fear of upsetting their political masters and might lose their jobs?
“I hope the government is serious about moving swiftly to prevent that from happening and the opposition will also support the government should it decide to do that.”
Speaking in the Commons during May’s third reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, Sir Gerald warned of the dangers of the “aggressive homosexual community”.
Margot James, the first out lesbian Tory MP to be elected said gay rights legislation had necessarily “levelled the playing field” to ensure “outrageous verbal aggression” directed at gay people would stop.
In response, Sir Gerald said: “I warn her, I fear the playing field is not being levelled I believe the pendulum is swinging so far the other way, and there are plenty in the aggressive homosexual community who see this as but a stepping stone to something even further.”
The MP did not make clear what that further step would be.
Gay Conservative MP and former Home Office minister Nick Herbert criticised Sir Gerald for his previous outspoken comments in Tuesday’s debate by saying it took freedom of expression “to an unreasonable extent”.
Mr Herbert said it would be intolerable to talk of “aggressive blacks” or “aggressive Jews”.
Along with equal marriage Sir Gerald was also staunchly opposed to the introduction of civil partnerships.
In 2005, he said: “This is a Christian country and Christian teaching is very clear on these matters and I am extremely concerned that young people today are being bombarded with literature which suggests that a homosexual relationship is the same as a heterosexual relationship, which it is not.”
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill received Royal Assent on Wednesday afternoon and the first same-sex weddings are due to take place by the summer of 2014.
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