The former Defence Secretary Liam Fox, who resigned last year over the questioned raised about his relationship with lobbyist Adam Werrity, has described equal marriage rights as an issue prioritised by the ‘metropolitan elite’.
Dr Fox’s office confirmed to PinkNews.co.uk today he was undecided on the issue and would be listening to “both sides” before reaching a decision nearer to a Parliamentary vote.
The Member of Parliament for North Somerset told Sky News at the weekend: “This is a contentious issue but I have to say that I am much more in favour of social mobility than social engineering.
“I think that the vast majority of the public have a completely different set of priorities from what I would call the metropolitan elite and I think they will be looking for economic and social issues to be dealt with first.”
While he has not stated he will oppose to the move, the language of Dr Fox’s comments echoes that of Tory MP Nadine Dorries who described the government’s plans for marriage equality as a “policy which has been pursued by the metro elite gay activists and needs to be put into the same bin”.
At least one commentator has suggested people use their support of equal marriage to demonstrate “moral superiority over the supposedly backward masses”, despite most recent polls tending to show a plurality in favour of marriage equality among the population in general.
A ComRes online poll for Catholic Voices last week found among a sample of 541 people who described their sexual orientation as gay, bisexual or other, half said the right to marry was important to them personally. The sample size and questions used in the poll, which appeared to indicate that 77 percent of non-heterosexual people in England, Wales and Scotland supported the move, were considered in the mainstream media.
Dr Fox resigned last year saying he had “mistakenly allowed the distinction between my personal interest and my government activities to become blurred” after questions were raised about his relationship with Adam Werrity and its impact on his role as Defence Secretary.
His successor at the Ministry of Defence, Philip Hammond, recently added his voice to those of Conservatives questioning the necessity of equalising access to marriage.
In May, Mr Hammond said marriage equality was “too controversial” for the Government to tackle at the moment, suggesting that it would be “difficult to push through”, “use up a lot of political capital” and “a lot of legislative time as well”.
Mr Hammond added that there was “a consultation going on and we should look at and listen to what people are saying in response to that consultation. I think the Government has got to show over the next couple of years that it is focused on the things that matter to people in this country.”
A running tally of MPs likely to vote for or against a marriage equality bill currently being run by the Coalition for Equal Marriage shows 233 MPs in support with only 56 publicly opposed. Just over 44 percent of eligible MPs have declared a position at this stage.