The Labour MP for Huddersfield Barry Sheerman has said he now supports equal marriage rights for same-sex couples after previously being “unsure”.
In May of this year, the veteran Labour backbencher told the local Examiner newspaper that he thought there was no “great pressure” to allow same-sex weddings.
Towards the end of August, LGBT students from the University of Huddersfield met with Mr Sheerman a devout Christian for an informal discussion on the issue, and presented him with a petition of 326 signatures collected at a gay pride event.
At the time, Jamie Fosbrook, vice president of the LGBT society, said: “Mr Sheerman told us he was unsure and had been undecided either way, though – as a committed Christian – he supported equality in the church for women.”
It appears the students’ decision to lobby Mr Sheerman has paid off.
Mr Sheerman told the Examiner yesterday: “When I first talked to gay people they said they already had parity through civil partnerships. They said that gay marriage was something they didn’t particularly need.
“But I’ve listened to the discussions and I’ve been persuaded that this is important to a lot of people in our community.
“I’ve mulled it over and I’ve decided there are certain times when it’s right to change your mind.”
Mr Sheerman added that his new-found support had been strengthened by Monday’s anti-equal marriage fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference.
“I saw the speakers and it was a bunch of extremely Conservative figures like Ann Widdecombe with whom I wouldn’t identify,” he said.
“I thought My God. I was right to change my mind.”
Unlike their Conservative counterparts, who have already been promised a free vote, the party is following the option of the Lib Dems, by invoking a three-line Commons whip.
It means Labour MPs such as Jim Dobbin, Joe Benton and Mary Glindon, who have already signalled their public opposition to marriage equality, risk potential disciplinary action if they go against party lines and pass through the no lobby.