New equalities minister: My constituents opposed same-sex marriage ‘one hundred to one’

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The new Minister for Equalities has explained her decision to vote against same-sex marriage, claiming her constituents asked her to oppose it “at a ratio of 100 to one”.

Caroline Dinenage, the MP for Gosport, was appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron this week as the minister for equalities at the Department for Education.

The move prompted concern due to her record on LGBT rights, as she told a PinkNews reader in 2013 that the state has “no right” to redefine marriage, and that “preventing same-sex couples from being allowed to marry takes nothing away from their relationship.”

However, Ms Dinenage – who has since affirmed her support for equality – now says that she only voted against same-sex marriage because her constituents wanted her to.

In a letter to a second PinkNews reader this week, she said: “I want to make clear that my vote on this issue was one over which I deliberated very carefully.

“As you will know, I inherited a constituency bruised by the expenses scandal meaning that many of my constituents had lost faith in MPs. I was therefore conscious of the need to be directly accountable to them.

“I received correspondence requesting me to vote against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at a ratio of 100:1 in comparison to those in favour.

“I therefore made the difficult decision to vote against the Bill – and my conscience – and instead represent the views of the many hundreds of constituents who had contacted me.

“Marriage of same-sex couples is now law, and I fully support this as an important step forward in the rights of LGB&T people.”

On her new role, she said: “I hope I will be judged on my record in office rather than the past.

“I am honoured to have been appointed as Minister for Equalities and look forward to building on the Government’s excellent track record in tackling inequalities and discrimination.

“The UK has just been named the most progressive country in Europe for LGB&T rights for the fifth year running, which is a testament to the achievements that have been made.

“But I recognise there is no room for complacency and I am committed to taking further action to support LGB&T equality, in particular, continuing the Government’s work on tackling homophobic bullying in schools and supporting LGB&T rights around the world.

“I look forward to working with LGB&T organisations to understand the challenges that remain and to discuss this Government’s priorities for this Parliament. Please be assured that I am absolutely committed to tackling discrimination in all its forms and to creating a fairer society for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Labour has voiced concern with the appointment, with rights activist Lord Cashman expressing “deep concern” with the appointment.