A hero of the equal marriage debate has died

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Lord Jenkin, a former Thatcher minister who enthusiastically rallied behind equal marriage, has passed away aged 90.

A statement confirmed the Conservative peer passed away peacefully at his home, with his family by his bedside.

90-year-old Lord Patrick Jenkin of Roding, a former member of the Thatcher cabinet, won acclaim during the passage of same-sex marriage legislation in 2013 for a passionate speech in favour of equality.

In the speech he defended equality from critics, saying: “Last year, my wife and I celebrated our diamond wedding anniversary, and I have to say that it has been a marriage with mutual comfort and support. Is this Bill going to redefine that marriage? I cannot see how that could possibly happen.”

His backing was influential in winning support for the law among Conservative peers.

Lord Jenkin was nominated for Speech of the Year at the 2013 PinkNews Awards. His son Bernard Jenkin, himself a Tory MP, also voted in favour of equal marriage.

Writing for PinkNews at the time, the peer hailed the passage of same-sex marriage as a victory for common decency.

He wrote: “Perhaps the most important consequence will be that in the longer term we are seeing the end of discrimination against gays and lesbians in our society.

“In part, this is due to the leadership of the prime minister and of parliamentarians; but in part because it must also be accompanied by recognition of the gay and lesbian community that they must try to avoid provocative confrontations.

“There are still many people out there who will find it quite difficult to accept gay marriages; they must be given time to get used to it, so that they too come to regard it simply as part of a tolerant and civilised community.”

The peer made history in 2014 by becoming the first to take advantage of reforms to allow peers to retire from the House of Lords, after over five decades in politics.

He said at the time: “I have done 50 years. I am now 88 and quite frankly, I have had enough. My wife, Monica, and I will probably move away from London. There is no hurry about this, but we are reaching the end of our lives, we are both nearer 90 than 80 and you can’t go on for ever.”

Lord Jenkin served as Member of Parliament for Wanstead and Woodford from 1964 to 1987.