Andrea Leadsom: I would be happy to see same-sex couples married in church

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Conservative politician Andrea Leadsom has told PinkNews she would be “happy” to see same-sex marriage in churches – in response to coverage referencing her poor LGBT rights record.

While running for the Conservative Party leadership last year, Ms Leadsom admitted in an interview that she “didn’t like” the same-sex marriage law – claiming it “harms” Christians.

She had suggested that gay couples should have remained barred but allowed to enter civil partnerships, as they were  in the UK between 2004 and 2014.

But Ms Leadsom, now a Cabinet minister and the Leader of the House of Commons, told PinkNews this week that despite her concerns about faith she would be “happy” to see same-sex couples marry in church.

Andrea Leadsom: I would be happy to see same-sex couples married in church

She said: “My decision [to abstain on the 2013 equal marriage bill] related specifically to the legislation around registry offices and churches, and the way in which the Christian faith recognises marriage.

“I have always been clear that I believe the love of same-sex couples is just as important, and indeed equal, as the love of heterosexual couples.

“I would be very happy to see same-sex couples married in a church, but that is a matter for the Church of England.

“I am proud to live in a country that recognises equality for all.”

Her comments go further than the position stated by Theresa May, who has never clarified whether she supports religious same-sex marriage.

Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow previously called on the Church of England to embrace same-sex unions.

At an LGBT event in Speaker’s House, Mr Bercow questioned whether same-sex marriage was truly equal while still resisted by major religious groups.

He said: “We don’t want to behave like it’s all over, everything’s been done and nothing remains, because that isn’t true.

“I still feel we’ll only have proper equal marriage when you can bloody well get married in a church if you want to do so, without having to fight the church for the equality that should be your right.”

Prominent evangelicals hit out at the comments at the time.

Speaking in the Commons last week, Ms Leadsom heaped praise on Australia’s Parliament for passing equal marriage.

Speaking from the despatch box in her role as Leader of the House of Commons, Ms Leadsom said that the decision was a celebration of “all love”.

Andrea Leadsom: I would be happy to see same-sex couples married in church

As Australis passed equal marriage, she said: “Today is a day of celebration.

“I am sure colleagues across the House will join me in congratulating our fellow parliamentarians down under, who have today legalised gay marriage.

“Australia becomes the 25th country to recognise that marriage is a celebration of all love. It has been wonderful to see such happy and celebratory scenes in its Parliament.”

Andrea Leadsom: I would be happy to see same-sex couples married in church

Her comments marked an about-turn from her position stated during the Tory leadership battle last year.

In 2016 Ms Leadsom, who abstained on equal marriage in Parliament, admitted in an interview that she “didn’t like” the same-sex marriage law – claiming it “harms” Christians.

She said: “My own view is that marriage in the Biblical sense, from the many Christians who wrote to me, can only be between a man and a woman.

“I don’t agree with them… but what I do think is I would have preferred for civil partnerships to be available to heterosexual and gay couples, and for marriage to have remained as a Christian service for men and women who wanted to commit in the eyes of God.”

“I think we’ve muddled the terms of marriage, civil partnership, church, registry office… I would have liked that to have been clarified.”

Andrea Leadsom: I would be happy to see same-sex couples married in church

Ms Leadsom had previously claimed that straight adoptive parents should have priority over gay couples in the adoption process.

She called for a system that would give heterosexual couples ‘priority’ in the adoption process, writing in a post from 2009: “There’s a truly unbelievable story in the paper today, that a young brother and sister, whose mother is a heroin addict, have been turned down for adoption by their own grandparents, because they are deemed too old, even though neither has yet turned 60.

“If that weren’t enough, the siblings are now to be adopted by two complete strangers against the wishes of the grandparents. Following adoption, they will then be ‘allowed’ 2 visits to their grandchildren each year.

“And as if that weren’t enough, the two strangers are a gay couple, who have been selected ahead of several heterosexual couples.”

In a separate post from 2007 about adoption, Ms Leadsom suggested a ‘points-based’ adoption system that gives preference to “a married man and woman as potential adopters”.

Andrea Leadsom: I would be happy to see same-sex couples married in church

She wrote: “There may be a statistically strong case for preferring a married man and woman as potential adopters, and I would be in favour of a ‘points’ system for potential adopters, that took into account the statistical success rate of their particular profile (e.g. married, divorced, single, gay etc).”

She has also faced questions over her links to an evangelical project in Uganda which advocates gay ‘cures’.

Ms Leadsom emerged during the EU referendum campaign as a leading voice in the Brexit camp – and was a surprise contender in the Conservative Party leadership battle last year.

A new MP in 2010, Ms Leadsom entered Parliament after the bulk of LGBT rights legislation had already been passed.

She ‘positively abstained’ on equal marriage in 2013, voting both in favour and against citing the views of her constituents.

Ms Leadsom explained to PinkNews in 2013 that she would vote yes to equal marriage to show her support for gay rights, but at the same time she would vote no because she found elements of the law “unacceptable”.

She said: “Having looked carefully at the Government’s consultation and considering the opinion of my constituents I find myself genuinely torn on the debate – I cannot vote against a measure that would mean so much to the minority of homosexual couples for whom marriage is the ultimate recognition for their genuine feelings for each other.

“Yet nor can I vote for a measure that risks centuries of faith based belief in marriage as between a man and a woman, that will upset so many of my constituents and which has not yet won public support.”

Explaining her plans to vote both ways, she said: “This is to reflect my support for the genuine love and commitment of same sex partners, but also to register my protest at the unacceptability of the timing and wording of this legislation, as well as to represent the concerns of so many of my constituents who feel very deeply that this proposal is simply wrong.”