Crawley MP Henry Smith stands by his gay marriage vote
HENRY Smith says he has no regrets about his controversial stance on gay marriage after the majority of MPs voted in favour of legalising it.
Following the vote in the House of Commons last Tuesday, in which the Crawley MP voted against redefining marriage, he admitted he was disappointed at how the issue had caused some to express extreme views.
He added it was "very frustrating" that he and others who opposed a change in the law had been accused of being homophobic.
"One of the things I do regret is the fact that it has really polarised people," he said.
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"There is very little middle ground it seems. There are people on one extreme who think that if you are against gay marriage then you have bigoted views against gay people.
"And there are those on the other extreme who have jumped to conclusions and aired some extreme opinions.
"I have never taken any moral stance on this issue. I believe that everyone should be free to make their own lifestyle choices and I have absolutely no problem with homosexuality. It has been around since the dawn of time."
Before the vote Mr Smith had made it clear he was voting against gay marriage after receiving hundreds of letters from constituents of different faiths urging him to do so.
He added this week: "I voted the way I thought was right because civil partnerships afford the same legal rights as marriage.
"I never expected to win the vote but I don't vote simply to be on the winning side."
Despite the furious backlash from some constituents over his stance, and an online petition that garnered about 370 signatures, he never considered abstaining.
"Abstaining is the chicken's way out," he said. "I think that you are elected to sit in Parliament and vote on these key issues. If you are asked a question, you owe it to the people who elected you to come up with an answer and not bottle out."
Having lost the main vote, Mr Smith actually voted in favour of speeding up the process of getting the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill through Parliament.
He explained: "Having had the second reading passed, I have no wish to frustrate the Parliamentary reading of the bill and use systems to delay the legislation."
However, Mr Smith raised concerns over the fact the legislation is not entirely equal.
He said: "Adultery won't be seen as grounds for divorce in same-sex marriage but it will still be within heterosexual marriages.
"Also the old civil partnerships will still exist but only for same-sex couples. There needs to be consistency."
Mr Smith admitted that the issue has caused some tension between him and his own friends.
He said: "I have a number of gay friends in Crawley and, I won't lie, it has been difficult.
"Just going out for drinks with them, in the last couple of months it has been a little bit more of a stilted relationship."
The legislation will now receive further Parliamentary scrutiny before it becomes law, a timescale for which is not yet known, but is expected to be within the next few months.