Ripon MP Julian Smith has vowed to support the same-sex marriage bill during a parliamentary debate this week.
Mr Smith confirmed he will be voting for the bill – which will have a second reading in the House of Commons on Tuesday, February 5 – saying it is “designed to strike the right balance between protecting important religious freedoms while ensuring that same-sex couples are afforded the same level of equality.”
Despite his commitment to the bill, Mr Smith maintained religious belief is something he has always “strongly supported” and he is working hard to ensure “vital safeguards in place for organisations that don’t want to take part in same-sex marriage” throughout the legislation’s development.
Once the second reading is complete, the bill will pass through to committee stage – where parts of the bill and any proposals for change are debated – before going on to a report stage, a third reading and eventually the House of Lords.
“I am now confident that with the ‘quadruple lock’ of measures to protect religious freedoms, the Government has done everything it can to ensure that no challenge either through domestic or European courts will be successful,” said Mr Smith.
“This is an issue where people have strong views. I respect everyone’s position, understand people’s views and have listened carefully to every argument that has been put forward to me. I would never support legislation that did not allow for the absolute protection of religious organisations.”
Although Mr Smith said he will back David Cameron’s approach “not least because of the importance of commitment in strengthening our society”, Downing Street expects 130 of the Tory party’s 303 MPs to vote against the Prime Minister.
Mr Smith added:“Marriage has never been static. It has evolved. In the 19th century, inequalities prevented Catholics, atheists, Baptists and many others from marrying except in the Anglican Church.
“In the 20th century, the law was changed to recognise married men and married women as equal before law. Marriage reform has ensured that as society has changed, so marriage has changed and has become available to a broader range of people. I believe this legislation continues that tradition.”
Under the proposed legislation same-sex couples will be able to marry either in a civil ceremony in a registry office or on approved premises, such as a hotel, or on religious premises or with a religious ceremony where the religious organisation’s governing body has opted in.