John Hayes
John Hayes
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MP John Hayes believes churches may be forced to conduct gay weddings against their wishes if the same-sex marriage bill becomes law.

The South Holland and The Deepings MP was one of 136 Tories who voted against the bill on Tuesday – while his openly gay Conservative cabinet colleague, Bourne MP Nick Boles, supported it.

Nick Boles

Nick Boles

Energy minister Mr Hayes now hopes the bill is defeated in the House of Lords after it passed through the Commons by 400 votes to 175.

The bill is intended to have “safeguards” so religious ceremonies are only carried out with the consent of institutions like the Church of England. But Mr Hayes says: “You would have to have immense faith in the legislation not to think it will be challenged.”

He said individuals could mount challenges on the grounds that it discriminated against their rights.

“We have seen before how these exhortations of rights can cut against both commonsense and legislation,” he said. “There is at least a chance of that occurring.”

Mr Hayes said many wondered why Parliament was debating the issue at all when it wasn’t in the Conservative manifesto and there were so many other important issues.

“It’s the wrong move at the wrong time,” he said. “It’s the wrong move because it redefines marriage.”

Mr Hayes says he’s had hundred of letters from constituents opposed to gay marriage – and only a few from supporters.

He said: “I think marriage should be between one man and one woman and that’s the assessment that’s underpinned the institution of marriage for all of time and obviously, in a Christian country, we draw on the Christian message in that respect and rightly so.”

Mr Boles was not available yesterday.

In 2011 the MP entered into a civil partnership ceremony with his partner Shay Meshulam.

The Vicar of Spalding, the Rev John Bennett, gave a careful welcome to the vote but says the Church of England remains opposed to conducting same-sex marriages.

He said: “I welcome any measure that will encourage and support strong relationships based on loving commitment between two people.

“I also believe that the Church of England is right to be cautious about the definition of marriage, which may have unintended consequences for families and for children.”

“I don’t know whether same-sex relationships are going to be as stable in the long term as heterosexual relationships.”

While the Church of England’s ruling body is against same-sex marriages in churches Mr Bennett says opinion among clergy is divided between those who would “happily marry a gay couple tomorrow to those who would rather die first”.

• Gay marriage campaigner Suzi Paddison (19) collected more than 100 signatures in Spalding on Boxing Day from those who opposed Mr Hayes’s stance on gay marriage.