POLITICS

Gay Marriage Critics Not 'Bigoted' Says David Cameron, In Attempt To Heal Tory Wounds

22/05/2013 09:34 BST
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British Prime Minister David Cameron addresses the Global Investment Conference in London on May 9, 2013. Cameron lashed out at 'pessimists' in his own party demanding immediate withdrawal from the European Union as he made an address at a global investment conference in central London. AFP PHOTO / POOL / STEFAN ROUSSEAU (Photo credit should read STEFAN ROUSSEAU/AFP/Getty Images)

David Cameron has defended the introduction of gay marriage after the majority of Tory MPs voted against the bill, but tried to heal the divisions in his party by insisting opponents were not "wrong-headed or bigoted".

In a passionate defence of the controversial legislation, the prime minister told BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning: "There will be young boys in schools today who are gay, who are worried about being bulled, who are worried about what society thinks about them, who can see the highest parliament in the land has said that their love is worth the same as anyone else's love."

Cameron added: "I think they will stand that bit taller today."

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill easily received its third reading by 366 votes to 161 on Tuesday evening - a majority of 205. However 133 Tories voted against the legislation with 117 voting in favour. Environment secretary Owen Paterson and Welsh secretary David Jones joined several other Conservative ministers in voting against their own government's bill.

Cameron acknowledged the issue had divided the Conservative Party but insisted it was "right" for Britain. "I am proud that legislation has now passed the House of Commons, that is a good thing."

He added: "I think its important we have this degree of equality. I say that as someone who is a massive supporter of marriage. It's such a good institution it should be available to gay people as well as heterosexual people."

Cameron has come under intense pressure from large number of backbench MPs and grassroots party activists to drop the bill.

Former cabinet minister Norman Tebbit told the prime minister he had "really fucked things up" by changing the law on marriage as it would open up the possibility of a lesbian queen and fathers marrying sons.

Cameron used his interview on the Today programme this morning to attempt to move on from the internal-party battle. "I don’t think in any way that to oppose gay marriage to be wrong-headed or bigoted. This is a different point of view but we should respect each other," he said.

"There is plenty of room in a modern party like the Conservative party to have people who are opponents of gay marriage and proponents of gay marriage."

The bill will now move to the House of Lords where its critics retain hope it will get bogged down or even killed off.