Campaigners reject equalities minister’s claim on scale of opposition to gay marriage

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Residents of Gosport have reacted with scepticism to a claim by the new equalities minister that her constituents opposed same-sex marriage “at a ratio of 100 to one”.

Caroline Dinenage, the MP for Gosport, was appointed by Prime Minister David Cameron this week as a minister for equalities at the Department for Education – despite previously claiming the state has “no right” to redefine marriage.

However, in a letter to a PinkNews reader last week explaining her vote, she said: “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.”

However, local residents of her Gosport constituency have questioned whether the number can really be accurate – given that polling n May 2013 found that 53 percent of voters in the South of England supported same-sex marriage – compared to 40 percent opposed.

Pub landlord and former Lib Dem candidate Rob Hylands told PinkNews: “I would be very surprised if that figure of 100 to 1 was anywhere near representative of the feelings of the people of Gosport on the issue of same-sex marriage.

“I believe that given my experience, as a publican and as a campaigner, I am pretty well placed to judge the general feeling of people in Gosport on most issues and I can state quite categorically that Gosport is no different to the rest of the country on this issue.

“In fact I find it insulting and more than a little disturbing that Caroline Dinenage who is supposed to be representing our town has, with her comments, made it sound like Gosport is a backward ‘red neck string ’em up’ town still stuck in the middle ages.”

Ex-Labour candidate Alan Durrant also told PinkNews he was sceptical of the claim, while former Green candidate Monica Cassidy told PinkNews: “A number of people from the LGBTIQ community in Gosport wrote to Caroline Dinenage and were disappointed with the replies and lack of support that they felt they had.

“I wrote to her myself at that time and received no reply… I was not to surprised to learn that Caroline Dinenage had voted against when she had.

“I find the people of Gosport to be friendly and accommodating; in fact a recently conducted poll comparing local towns reported that to be so.

“Therefore I am surprised by the level of Caroline’s claimed numbers. These are much rather higher than I would have expected.”