Greg Mulholland MP says Lib Dem MPs ‘pilloried’ in party for voting against equal marriage

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Liberal Democrat MP Greg Mulholland says Members of his party who voted against this year’s same-sex marriage bill had been “pilloried” by fellow colleagues.

The Catholic MP has contributed to a new collection of essays published by the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum titled “Liberal Democrats do God.”

“Freedom of conscience seemed to be pushed out of the debate,” the MP said.

Although Mr Mulholland was among 366 MPs to vote in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at third reading in May, the Leeds MP was accused by Leeds University student Jonathan Pryor on Twitter of having voted “for a wrecking amendment” and then “trying to abolish marriage.”

In response, Mr Mulholland tweeted: “@Jonathan_Pryor and I am very glad I have never met you Jonathan as you are a disingenuous, manipulate, illiberal little shit! #truth.”

Mr Mulholland then apologised, saying: “Whilst I am right to confront Jonathan Pryor’s intolerant and dishonest statements, I was of course wrong to call him a shit. I did so because of the anger I felt at the way I was being misrepresented. But I would rather be called a shit, a bigot or a wanker than be called homophobic.

“To be called homophobic when I am not is deeply hurtful, it is like being called racist. I am neither and reject hate in all forms and I would hope Mr Pryor would do the same.”

Earlier in the statement, Mr Mulholland said: “whilst the principle of equal recognition is one I fully support, the Marriage Bill is flawed and is not equal in several ways, as it continues to deny same-sex civil partners the same pension rights as others, it provides two different definitions of civil marriage not one, it allows civil partnerships only for same-sex couples and it prevents humanists and some religions having civil marriage ceremonies. So it is unequal on four counts and I have called for that to be changed, yet for that some people including Mr Pryor have condemned me.”

Sir Alan Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed), Gordon Birtwistle (Burnley), John Pugh (Southport), Sarah Teather (Brent Central) were among 4 MPs to vote against the bill at third reading. 

Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Simon Hughes abstained along with party President Tim Farron.

Lib Dem MPs, Mark Hunter, Health Minister Norman Lamb, John Leech, Sir Robert Smith, David Ward and Jenny Willott were also not present in the House of Commons for the vote on 21 May.

However, Ms Willott was on maternity leave at the time.

In an interview with the Catholic Herald during the same month, Ms Teather, who is Catholic, said: “In many ways I’d rather not resurrect the whole argument again. It wasn’t one of those issues that I went into politics to tackle, but once a vote became inevitable I spent ten or 11 months weighing up the issues – of equality on the one hand and family life and what it meant for the definition of marriage on the other.”

She added: “I did a lot of reading and eventually I came to my conclusion, based not on any effect it would have in the short-term, but on the change it would mean for marriage over a longer period of time.”