Clegg attacks Cameron on gay marriage

A decision by Prime Minister David Cameron to allow Tory MPs – including ministers – a free vote on gay marriage was condemned yesterday by Nick Clegg.

The Deputy Prime Minister said it was wrong to let the issue become a "great free-for-all" as it was a government commitment – not a conscience vote. The Prime Minister and other Tory ministers support same-sex marriage, but he faces backbench dissent about the move. Backbench hostility, as well as opposition from Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson, has forced him to concede a free vote on the proposal.

Commons leader Sir George Young said last week that Tory MPs would have a free vote as it involved "matters of conscience".

But Mr Clegg told the Andrew Marr Show: "If this was an issue that somehow the Government was proposing something that would somehow be an imposition on religion or the churches, then of course that would be a matter of conscience. We are not."

Mr Clegg insists the measure will become law – and suggested Mr Cameron should be tougher with backbench opponents.

"It's something I believe in... and I think we should now do this because we're not asking any person with religious convictions to sacrifice anything," he said.

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