Boris and Gove sign letter supporting gay marriage

The mayor of London and the Education Secretary are among 19 senior Tories backing a 2014 legalisation

LAST UPDATED AT 12:02 ON Sun 9 Dec 2012

BORIS JOHNSON and Michael Gove have joined a new group of senior Tories campaigning for marriage equality. They want to give same-sex couples the right to marry in church, while ensuring no church is forced to allow such unions.

Gay marriage is one of David Cameron's flagship policies, with cross-parliamentary support, but contentious within his party. A free vote, says The Sunday Telegraph, would "easily" see gay marriage ratified with around 130 Tory MPs voting against it.

A bill to legalise gay marriage will be introduced "before Easter", says the paper, with David Cameron determined that the first gay marriage ceremonies will be held "before 2015", probably as soon as spring 2014.

The new group has been put together by former police minister Nick Herbert, who is himself in a civil partnership. It was announced in a letter to the newspaper with 19 Conservative signatories.

As well as Gove and Johnson, the group includes transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin, who is a Catholic, and foreign office minister Alistair Burt, who is an evangelical Christian.

There are also two other former Tory ministers - Lord Fowler and Nicholas Soames - and the leader of the Scottish conservatives, Ruth Davidson, who is a lesbian.

The letter states: "Marriage should be open to all, regardless of sexuality. We recognise that civil partnerships were an important step forward in giving legal recognition to same sex couples.

"But civil partnerships are not marriages, which express a particular and universally understood commitment."

Herbert writes in the paper: "It is precisely because marriage is such a uniquely important institution that we should ensure that all couples who want to enter into it, regardless of their sexuality, can do so. Conservatives who believe in marriage should feel this most strongly."

But Mark Pritchard, a former secretary of the Toey backbench 1922 Committee, told the paper the PM was out of touch. He said: "The bill is likely to alienate the Tory grassroots, natural Conservative voters, and multiple faith communities. Number 10 is out of touch with mainstream public opinion and needs to shelve it.” · 

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