East Anglian MP signs letter opposing gay marriage

An East Anglian MP has signed a letter accusing the government of ignoring public opinion over gay marriage.

Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley was amongst almost 60 who signed the letter after culture secretary Maria Miller announced plans to allow same-sex couples to marry last week.

The letter reads: 'We are united in supporting the institution of marriage defined in law as a union between a man and a woman.

'We recognise the value of a loving and committed relationship and we respect civil partnership, but affirm the distinctive value of marriage reflecting the complementarity of a man and woman often evidenced in parenthood.'

Currently gay couples can enter into civil partnerships that give them almost exactly the same legal rights as married couples.

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However, proposals which prime minister David Cameron backs would see marriage redefined, so its current definition of being between a man and a woman would be altered to accommodate same-sex couples.

The government says consulted on the issue, but the letter argued half a million people had signed a petition opposing the proposed change,

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It read: 'At the last election, none of the three main parties stood on a platform to redefine marriage. It was not contained in any of their manifestos, nor did it feature in the coalition's programme for government.

'These facts alone should have led to extreme caution on the part of those calling for this change to be made. Instead the government is ignoring the overwhelming public response against the plans.'

The government has said that no religious institution would be forced to carry out same-sex marriages if they did not want to. However Mr Ruffley has previously warned any change could leave institutions open to being sued if they refused to marry people.

The letter, also signed by a handful of Labour MPs, added: 'We understand some parliamentarians support freedom for same-sex couples to marry, but we support a freedom from the state being able to redefine the meaning of marriage.'

A bill is expected at the end of January with changes potentially passed through parliament by the summer.

Mid Norfolk MP George Freeman, North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham, Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey and Waveney MP Peter Aldous have also indicated they may oppose a change.

Meanwhile Liberal Democrat Norwich South MP Simon Wright and Tory Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, herself recently engaged to be married, have both said they back the plans.

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