Clegg stands firm on gay marriage despite rebellion


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Nick Clegg has pledged that the Government will not renege on its promise to legalise gay marriage despite a revolt by Tory MPs.

The Deputy Prime Minister told the rebels they were wrong to claim that bringing in civil marriage would weaken the institution. He said the reform would be driven through Parliament despite them.

Mr Clegg spoke out yesterday after i revealed that traditionalist Tory MPs are plotting to defeat the move in the Commons. Tory insiders believe 100 MPs could oppose it in a free vote. The Liberal Democrat leader insisted: "There is absolutely no question of the Coalition Government abandoning our commitment to legalise gay marriage. I wholeheartedly reject the idea that making civil marriage open to same-sex couples somehow devalues the institution of marriage. I would argue the opposite – it makes it stronger. Lots of other countries have made this progressive step and I think it is high time Britain joined them."

He said Lynne Featherstone, the Lib Dem Equalities Minister, had been driving the agenda and would launch a consultation exercise in March about "how we are going to make this happen". Allies say David Cameron is fully committed to the proposal. But some Tories fear the planned rebellion could send out a damaging message. Chris Bryant, a Labour home affairs spokesman, said: "Just when you thought the Conservative Party has changed, you realise the old prejudices are just beneath the surface. I have not noticed the sky fall in on our heads since the introduction of civil partnerships and I am sure the family will be as strong as ever when gay couples are allowed... to marry."