Crawley MP will vote against gay marriage
CRAWLEY'S MP has defended his intention to vote against gay marriage – a decision which even his own wife doesn't agree with.
Despite the town's significant gay community, Henry Smith is among 118 Conservative MPs who have indicated their unease on the issue.
Speaking to the News, Mr Smith admitted he will be voting against allowing gay marriage.
He said: "I think redefining the term marriage to include civil partnerships would be very offensive to people of faith.
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"I have had more than 300 Christians and Muslims write to me from across Crawley with their concerns, with only two or three letters in favour.
"They worry that a redefinition will lead to them having to conduct same- sex weddings in their mosques and churches.
"I think it is important that the rights and views of traditional couples and people of faith are taken into account as well as those of gay couples.
"I have nothing against gay and lesbian couples or individuals. Civil partnerships afford same-sex couples exactly the same legal rights.
"There are going to be differing views on this issue and, not for the first time, I am not in agreement with the Prime Minister.
"My wife thinks differently on this and I have homosexual friends on the borough council who are in favour as well."
Southgate borough councillor Liam Marshall-Ascough, who is openly gay, is "disappointed" at his friend's decision.
He said: "Equality should be there for everyone regardless of their race, gender or sexuality.
"We live in a civilised community and this should only be an issue for the individuals who want to get married.
"There is the choice of a civil partnership but that gives me the impression that gay couples are seen as second class and have to live with and accept separate rights.
"It is as though there are two tiers. One being marriage and the other civil partnership. This is a form of apartheid.
"It is about giving gay people the right to live the life they want."
Mr Marshall-Ascough believes the gay community in Crawley will show their opposition to Mr Smith's stance.
He said: "In recent years the gay community in Crawley has become a little bit more lax. In the past they went out and fought for our rights but we have become very comfortable.
"There is a massive community in the town and I hope to see the gay and lesbian groups in Crawley standing up together on this.
"It is time to show Henry the gay and lesbian communities can be vocal and are as important as any religious group."
Labour borough and county councillor Chris Oxlade has also expressed his shock. He said: "I'm genuinely surprised Henry isn't backing the idea as he has always been an advocate for gay rights.
"This is a genuine drive towards equality."
David Cameron is understood to want to bring forward voting on a Bill, which would allow gay marriage.
Any vote in Parliament would be a "free vote", with no party line.
Is Mr Smith right or wrong? E-mail your views to editor@ crawleynews.co.uk