Tory MP Bob Stewart apologises for voting against equal marriage: ‘I was wrong’

Conservative MP Bob Stewart has apologised for his past views on same-sex unions.

Bob Stewart, the MP for Beckenham, spoke out in a Parliamentary debate on the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia.

Speaking on the floor of the House of Commons, he said: “I voted against the equal marriage act, and I was wrong. I was wrong. I’ve seen the joy it’s given so many people, and I was wrong.

“I do think the established Church of the country should follow what this House has decided, and that gay people should be able to marry in Church.”

His comments were met by cheers from across the House.

Stewart, a decorated former British Army officer and United Nations commander, added: “One of the guards’ battalions in the Second World War was widely recognised as being full of gay men.

“That battalion was reckoned to be the bravest and most steadfast battalion of the guards.”

His comments mark an abrupt shift from his views in 2012, when he said he would vote against equal marriage.

At the time the MP said: “To me marriage is a sacrament and, by definition, religion and tradition, a union between a man and a woman.

“As such, I view marriage, whether organised simply by the state or a combination of church, temple, mosque and state, to be different to civil partnerships and special in a unique way.

“On a point of principle I have informed the government that, should there be a vote in the House of Commons asking MPs to vote in favour of so-called gay marriages I will not support the idea.”

The politician was also one of the Tory MPs who supported an anti-gay Coalition for Marriage (C4M) petition, which called on Prime Minister David Cameron to drop his backing for marriage equality.

He is not the only Conservative MP to have had a change of heart.

Two MPs who voted against equal marriage, Nicky Morgan and Caroline Dinenage, both made commitments to LGBT rights when they were ministers at the Government Equalities Office.

Morgan told the 2014 PinkNews Awards that she was “delighted” to see gay couples getting married.

During her speech she was heckled by Labour’s Ben Bradshaw, who shouted “you voted against it”.

“I did vote against it yes, absolutely,” she said, continuing: “But if you are not going to recognise that people actually change their minds then what is the point of this place and this house of democracy and debate?”

Nigel Adams, the Member of Parliament for Selby and Ainsty, made an apology for his own vote in 2016.

He said: “I would like to take this opportunity to issue a mea culpa. During my first term in office I voted against equal marriage for a whole host of reasons.

“I thought at the time that what I was doing was right, but having now reflected and seen how that Act has made such a positive difference for thousands of couples around the country, I deeply regret that decision. I got it wrong.

“If I had the opportunity again, I would vote differently, and I want to apologise. I want to apologise to my friends, I want to apologise to family members, and constituents who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual.

“I want them to know that I believe in their full equality. I won’t have the chance to change that vote, but I’m pleased to have the chance to stand in support of equality before the law today.”