Former Conservative party chairman Lord Tebbit has said if gay people are able to marry members of the opposite sex there is no marriage inequality and has repeated his call to allow siblings to become civil partners.
Speaking in a series of interviews with the Belfast News Letter, the former minister said no one had approached him saying marriage for gay couples or House of Lords reform was a priority.
Asked then what he thought about the Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge to legalise gay marriages, he said: “What? I mean, steady on chaps. Let’s get a grip on reality.
“I think that that springs partly from Coalition games that if you give us reform of the House of Lords which makes sure that there’s always a blocking minority of Liberals in the electoral system which we shall devise, we will give you the re-drawing of the constituency boundaries. And if you don’t, we won’t.
“I don’t think I would have taken on gay marriage – it’s not perhaps the most important thing in the world. But perhaps that’s the point, particularly when we have civil partnerships.”
Lord Tebbit says there is, however, an argument for amending the law on civil partnerships, but only to allow siblings to form them.
He said it is “extremely inequitable that two sisters who have devoted their lives to looking after a parent should be prohibited from entering into a partnership which would be to their economic advantage, whereas two women otherwise can do so.”
He also questioned why there was not “more discussion about whether it’s in the best interests of children that they should be brought up in civil partnerships or so-called gay marriage and I think too little attention has been paid to that”.
Echoing an argument espoused last year by former presidential candidacy hopeful Michele Bachmann, Lord Tebbit suggested there was no inequality because gay people were able to marry people of the opposite sex.
He said: “When I get extremely irritated about it, I say: There is no inequality. Any male can marry, barring the restrictions on consanguinity, any female. Any female can marry any male. I’m terribly sorry sir, you want to do something that I don’t wish to do. That’s your problem, not my problem.”
He also said he would put five pounds on Kate Hoey, the Labour MP for London’s Vauxhall constituency, an area popular with gay people, not supporting marriage equality. He praised Ms Hoey for having “common ground” with Tories.
PinkNews.co.uk was not immediately able to contact Ms Hoey. However, the Coalition for Equal Marriage records her as not having expressed a voting intention on any marriage equality legislation, preferring to wait for the results of the government’s recent public consultation. It said she been “generally supportive” of the idea in an email to a constituent.
Earlier this year, Lord Tebbit said the prime minister’s reasons for supporting marriage equality were “absurd”, describing it as “another contagion from his Lib Dem partners”.
He said: “Within the can of worms that Mr Cameron is determined to open there are several nests of snakes. Why should a marriage be confined to just two persons? What is the barrier to the marriage of sisters, brothers or even parents and children?”
Lord Tebbit left the House of Commons in 1992 and his constituency was taken over by Iain Duncan Smith, who would go on to become the Conservative party leader ten years later. Mr Duncan Smith, who is Catholic and now Work and Pensions Secretary, recently announced his support for marriage equality.