Lord Smith: Equal marriage had such a large majority because it came from a Tory Government

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Britain’s first openly gay MP Lord (Chris) Smith of Finsbury has said that he thought there were advantages to equal marriage being introduced under a Tory Government, rather than Labour.

Appearing at BNP Paribas Diversity Week as a Keynote Speaker Lord Smith was asked whether he regretted that equal marriage was not introduced under Labour, and whether he had expected it to happen with a Conservative Government.

He said: “I suspect if Labour had managed to be re-elected in 2010, it’s something they would have probably brought in. Do I regret that they didn’t bring it in before then? Actually no, because I think it took time for civil partnerships to come in, and to be generally accepted, and for it to be so self-evidently a good thing for them the public acceptance of the idea of gay marriage to take hold I think it would have taken a bit of time anyway to get to the point of being able to say marriage is where we want to go to.”

He continued to say that he thought the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, which received Royal Assent earlier this year, found more support in the House of Lords, because it was introduced by the coalition Government headed by David Cameron, rather than by its Labour predecessor.

“In a way there was actually quite an advantage in having a Conservative Government coming forward with it because it meant that a lot of the conservative (benches?), especially in the House of Lords, felt obliged to support it which they wouldn’t necessarily have felt if it had come forward from the Labour Government, so I think we secured a much bigger majority because it was coming forward from a Conservative Government. [Labour] would still have got it through but the real sweeping victory that we had would have been less.”

Also speaking at Diversity Week, Lord Smith also said that during his time as PM, Tony Blair needed “persuading” that legalising the age of consent, and repealing Section 28 were the right things to do.

He also spoke out on the difficulties he faced coming out about his HIV status, revealing that the Sunday Times had agreed not to publish any stories on the matter for two years until he was ready.

The PinkNews Awards will take place in the Palace of Westminster on 23 October, and its supporters include BNP Paribas. The bank celebrated its Diversity week between 7 and 14 October 2013.