OXFORDSHIRE’S MPs were divided as the bill allowing gay marriage passed its first key hurdle in a House of Commons vote last night.
Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron, Oxford East’s Labour MP Andrew Smith, Wantage MP Ed Vaizey and Henley’s John Howell all voted for the Bill to allow same sex couples to marry Sir Tony Baldry, the Banbury MP, voted against, and Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood abstained, one of 35 Tory MPs to do so.
Overall the second reading of the Bill was passed by 400 votes to 175.
Sir Tony opposed the Bill, and spoke against it during a heated debate yesterday afternoon.
He said: “I am confident we are all created in the image of God – whether we be straight, gay, bi-sexual, or transsexual.
“We are all equally worthy in God’s sight and equally loved by God.
“I am also sure that we are, and should be, equally welcome at God’s Table.
“But equal-ness does not always equate with being the same.
“For centuries, civilisations have recognised the value and importance to society of having an enduring and exclusive union between one man and one woman.
“That relationship is called marriage.”
Mr Smith said: “My view is that in all but name Britain already has gay marriage through the institution of civil partnerships, which I thought was a very important and civilised step forward.
“I do understand the concerns which Christians and other faiths (and indeed some people of no faith) have that the Government’s proposals clash with traditional definitions of marriage.
“It seems to me likely that if the proposals are adopted, we will have a situation where a clear distinction will increasingly be drawn between civil marriage and religious marriage, with the definition of, and eligibility for, each being different.”
Speaking in Downing Street before the crunch vote, Mr Cameron accepted that there were “strong views on both sides of the argument”.
But he said: “I am a strong believer in marriage. It helps people commit to each other and I think it is right that gay people should be able to get married too. This is about equality. But it is also about making our society stronger.”
Miss Blackwood sent a letter to constituents last night outlining why she felt she could not vote either way.
She said she was a strong supporter of civil partnerships and opposed discrimination, but she also feared churches would face litigation if they refused to offer same-sex marriage ceremonies.
Miss Blackwood added: “I know that many people, who fully respect equal rights of same-sex couples, nonetheless feel strongly that it is not for the Government to redefine communal rules that have existed for centuries.
“When I look at it from this perspective I do find it disappointing that MPs have been asked to vote on something which causes such a deep divide in public opinion after such a short and flawed period of consultation.”
The vote split the Tory party MPs. The Labour Whips office suggested that 139 Tories had voted no, with 132 in favour.
The Bill will now go through the committee, report and third reading stages in the Commons before it is sent to the House of Lords for approval.