Ripon MP Julian Smith hasdefended his decision to support Government legislation allowing same-sex marriage despite objections from church officials and members of the public.
Mr Smith voted for the Bill – which was approved by a majority of MPs in a key House of Commons debate on Tuesday evening – to redefine marriage and make it accessible to all irrespective of sexual orientation.
Mr Smith said: “It was a difficult vote for everyone but I believe the protection that has been put in place for churches is very robust indeed.
“Over time people will realise this decision is the right decision.”
But the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt Rev John Packer, has voiced concerns over the proposed legislation.
A statement released by his office said: “The Church of England cannot support the Bill because of its concern for the uncertain and unforeseen consequences for wider society and the common good when marriage is redefined in gender-neutral terms.
“This re-shaping and unnecessary politicising of a fundamental social institution, which predates church and state, did not feature in party manifestos and has no mandate.”
Mr Smith assured the Church of England it will not face discrimination cases from the European Union if it refuses to marry same-sex couples.
“All the legal advice from the Government and evidence from other countries that have gone forward with same-sex marriage show there will not be a challenge from the European courts,” he said.
Mr Smith also said his newborn baby girl, Poppy, has reinforced his views on the issue:
“I have always had a strong view on same-sex marriage but having a child recently has made me realise that whatever sexuality someone is, they should be able to commit in the way I have been able to commit.”
The issue promoted heated debate on Twitter at the weekend, with Ripon residents arguing for and against the proposals.
Neighbouring MPs were split on the issue – Boroughbridge MP Andrew Jones voted for the Bill along with Mr Smith, but Thirsk and Malton MP Anne McIntosh opposed the legislation.