Why gay marriage has exposed Conservative divisions

Same-sex marriage ceremony

Many older Conservatives remember days when they were much more unpopular than they are now - days of strikes, riots and massive protests on the street, days when their leader's name was spat out with anger, days when they felt proud to be Tories.

Those Tories look back with fondness at that time of heroic unpopularity - when they awoke with pride to hear the news about the protests of the dragons Mrs Thatcher was slaying - the unions, CND and the Soviet Union.

Those same older Tories loathe the daily wearying grind of the age of austerity and coalition compromise.

They wake up now to hear with indifference or disappointment or, worse still, anger the news of what their government is doing. It is gay marriage which has released that fury.

Gay marriage was always certain to cause a furious row since it challenges sincere religious beliefs, deeply-rooted social conservatism and a mistrust of the metropolitan elite who are blamed for imposing an ideology of legally enforced equality on the country.

However, the real reason for the anger directed at David Cameron is that many Conservatives have realised that they and their attitudes are the dragon their leader has decided to slay.

Many believe that their leader only embraced gay marriage as part of his obsession with modernising the Tories and/or to claim credit for a measure the Lib Dems were determined to drive through.

There may be some truth in both but talking to senior Tories about gay marriage reminds me of talking to Tony Blair about Iraq.

When people hurled at him their belief that he was invading Iraq because of oil or a desperation to suck up to America he would reply "It's worse than you think, I really believe this".

The same is true of those around David Cameron and his acolytes. They really do believe in gay marriage. They believe much opposition to it is rooted in what they call "bigotry".

They want their government to be remembered for a great social change and not just its efforts to turn the economy around.

The divisions on display now stem from the fact that, in order to get their way, they are having to slay the sincerest beliefs of some of their own activists and MPs.

Nick Robinson Article written by Nick Robinson Nick Robinson Political editor

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  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Unfortunately, this is the only Lib Dem policy that doesn't cost Cameron any cash, so he's happy to let them have it.

    However, it's ill thought out. Any debate on the nature of marriage has been surpressed in the name of equality, and the libertarian lobby spend the rest of the time shouting "Bigot!" at anyone with the nerve to suggest that children are best raised with a mother and a father!

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    It's time for some people to get over it and wake up to the current day and age. Society has evolved in such a way where we should be showing more acceptance. I am not gay, but if other people are and want to get married then so be it, it's their life and how different is it from a heterosexual relationship.

    It doesn't make sense why there is such a big division over this

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    I think Nick's analysis that David Cameron actually believes in gay marriage is true. The trouble is I think he and many others believe it for all the wrong reasons. In short, they think it is OK to legislate on it, because they do not actually hold marriage in any form in very high esteem. It is something that people step in and out of so routinely now, it hardly matters to them who gets married.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    It is the LIberal side of the coalition that has pushed Cameron and Co to try make it legal for Homosexuals and Lesbians to be married. I think it is very sad that this group of people only want to have same sex relationships and calling them 'Gay' is wrong. These words are written from experience. Although I do not agree entirely with UKIP policies, I will vote for them next time if I can.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Gay marriage is just a smokescreen to hide the terrible failure of this government and the desperate situation they have put many poorer households in, Whilst I see no argument against gay marriage except the religious one which must be for individual conscience not the state's. I do not see the importance of this issue now. Lets just hope it brings them down - for good!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    I am not gay but I am a tory. DC is right to legislate to approve Gay marriage. Gays are not some weird deviant sect but part of normal society and should be entitled to the same rights and subject to the same obligations as everyone else.

    Marriage rules were set by the church for social control reasons not for religious reasons

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Either everyone is equal or they are not.
    This is the case for the laws of man, or of God.
    Feminist & Liberation theology was one of my favourite courses at Uni because this equality aspect is vital. I hope it is still running as every opinion I’ve read on this page so far could learn from it.
    Next stop - marriage is for procreation only. I think not.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    I couldn't care less whether gay people want to marry or not. It's none of my business what other people do, so long as they are not causing harm or loss to others.
    What I do care about is that there are people out there, many in positions of power, who think they have the right to impose their belief system on others.
    Legal restrictions on harmless practices are an abuse of the concept of law.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    This debate has been a timely reminder that many Tories are still bigots - over 100 Tory MPs are set to rebel.

    So in a way, it's been a useful exercise, as it helps identify the bigots.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    Why do religious people always want to impose their views and way of life on the rest of us? It's the same everywhere in the world. Why not just be happy in your chosen beliefs, and leave the rest of us to get on with our lives? This legislation harms no-one whatsoever. It won't impact me, or anyone else not gay. I don't see any point in objecting to it, unless it gives you some weird thrill.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Crazy tory religious dinosaurs fighting the last centuries battles. Do they really think their fantasy invisible friend supposed creator of the universe cares who hooks up with who and gives a monkeys about a recently created silly ceremony called marriage? Speaking of monkeys, watch them to see that gay behaviour is perfectly natural.

  • Comment number 30.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    Supporting gay marriage is the right policy, no doubt for the wrong reasons.

    No group of people has a monopoly on who can or cannot get married. If a particular church, synagogue, mosque or other religious group doesn't want to marry a couple through belief then fine, but they don't have a right to impose on what another religious (or non-religious) group believes. No religion 'owns' marriage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    This is just a smokescreen by the govt.the country is in dire financial straits so to try and deflect from this govts total failure it throws into the arena such issues as the gay marriage one. I wonder how many gay people are bothered by getting their union blessed in the eyes of "god"? the same with heterosexuals who usually just want a big day and have no respect for the religious meanings.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Space "My understanding is that the conservative MP's have a "free vote" on this? In my opinion all votes by MP's should be free votes!"

    I'd go further. The Party whip is undemocratic and should be illegal. Our MPs are supposed to represent our wishes - not those imposed on them by their party.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Many of us are mystified about why this simple subject has become a "Controversy". Is it to divert attention away from the failing economy & the poor performance of the coalition government? Civil partnership laws have resolved most of the legal issues.
    The elephant in all our living rooms is religion. The hoodwinking of the deluded, gulible masses. A tool used by politicians for their benefit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    In my small circle People are less concerned with the ins and outs of gay marriage than the laws of royal succession.

    Would a gay couple ascend the throne,be consecrated by the AB and acclaimed by their peers if it was the law.Catholics and royal gals are precluded from the succession if there`s a suitable chap but not gays.

    Would the title of king and queen be abolished?

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    There should be no issues surrounding gay rights simply because they shouldn't be issues - grant gay people the right to marry, don't force it on religious institutions, and you're done. Women didn't receive the vote for decades because politicians put other issues which took longer to resolve higher on their list of priorities. Minority? Doesn't matter. Heck, might even win Tories a few votes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Usual behaviour of career politicians: putting self and party before the citizens they are hired to serve. The only reason for passing laws allowing 'gay marriage' (or indeed anything else) is if it is in the national interest to do so.


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