Backlash hits opponents of gay marriage

Campaign by religious groups against proposed change to legislation angers MPs and activists
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Indy Politics

Pressure is increasing on the Government to honour its commitment to give same-sex couples the right to marry, as more public figures spoke out yesterday against an escalating campaign by religious groups against the plans.

The backlash comes after the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, lent his voice to a new campaign to oppose plans to change the status of marriage, calling it, "one of the greatest political power grabs in history".

The campaign, named the Coalition for Marriage, was launched alongside a petition that was signed by a number of MPs, including Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton and David Burrowes, MP for Enfield, Southgate. The group is supported by Christian groups, and has contacted 175,000 supporters asking them to back an online petition opposing the move. By last night it had collected about 19,000 signatures.

Responding to the group, Yvette Cooper, the shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, said: "We support gay marriage. Two people who love one another and want to get married deserve the same recognition from the state and society as anyone else."

In September, it was announced that the coalition Government would legislate for same-sex marriages by 2015.

A public consultation on how to make civil marriage available to same-sex couples is to be launched next month, but Ms Cooper said it was regrettable that the Coalition had delayed it. The Labour frontbencher Chris Byrant, who is gay, said those who argued that allowing same-sex marriages would cause chaos were "deluded." "This is a job that is only half-done. There are a lot of bizarre anomalies in the rules for weddings," he said.

One gay Tory MP said: " Apart from anything else, the churches seem to miss the point that they won't be forced to conduct same-sex weddings if they don't want to."

The singer Beverly Knight, who is a campaigner against homophobia, said: "Everyone who was opposing the introduction of same sex marriage seems to say that it does in some way undermine the institution that is marriage, but to my mind marriage is the union of two people who love each other, it existing before Christianity."

Matthew Todd, the editor of Attitude magazine, said Lord Carey was, "on the wrong side of history."