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Gay Marriage: Sir Gerald Howarth MP Warns Of 'Aggressive Homosexual Community'

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Former Conservative defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth has warned of the dangers of the "aggressive homosexual community".

The Aldershot MP was speaking during the Commons debate on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill on Monday evening. Sir Gerald said he opposed the bill as he believed it would restrict the freedom of speech of people who were opposed to same-sex weddings for religious reasons.

His fellow Tory MP, Margot James, said gay rights legislation had necessarily "levelled the playing field" to ensure "outrageous verbal aggression" directed at gay people would stop.

But Sir Gerald suggested that rather than creating a level playing field gay rights had actually gone too far. "I warn her, I fear the playing field is not being levelled I believe the pendulum is swinging so far the other way, and there are plenty in the aggressive homosexual community who see this as but a stepping stone to something even further," he said.

The MP did not make clear what that further step would be.

Plans to allow gay marriage look set to overcome their latest parliamentary hurdle this evening after Labour and the government signalled they were ready to work together to defeat a backbench bid to wreck the legislation in the House of Commons.

A source close to Culture Secretary Maria Miller told the Press Association she was "very relaxed" about a Labour proposal for an immediate consultation on extending civil partnerships to heterosexual couples, designed to defuse Tory backbench demands for straight couples to be given equality with homosexuals and lesbians in this area.

The deal means that the first same-sex marriages could take place as early as next summer if the gay marriage bill clears the House of Lords, where it is expected to meet stiff resistance.

A Tory opponent of gay marriage has tabled a "wrecking amendment" to the Bill which would extend the option of civil partnerships to straight couples. While many advocates of same-sex marriage back the idea in principle, they fear it could delay the legislation or scupper it altogether after Miller said it would impose "significant" additional complexities and extra costs on the reforms.

The wrecking amendment, tabled by former families minister Tim Loughton, is expected to win the support of 100 or more Conservative backbenchers in a free vote in the Commons this evening, but it needs the backing of large numbers of Labour or Liberal Democrat MPs to have any chance of being passed.

Writing on The Huffington Post UK today, Miller sought to reassure Conservative colleagues who oppose her bill that their fears are unfounded.

"The new legislation will not marginalise those who believe that marriage is between a man and a woman, it will not discriminate against those in faith schools who teach that marriage is between a man and a woman and it will not force priests, imams or rabbis to conduct same sex marriages against their wishes," she said.

She added: "Our plans are based on the fundamental values and principles which bind us together as a society. I remain of the view that, far from being a radical departure, equal marriage is simply one more in a long line of reforms which have strengthened marriage, ensuring it remains as relevant to our society as it ever was.

"It will make a real difference in the lives of thousands of people and we should be proud that we now live in a society which makes it possible."

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