Liberal Democrat MP John Pugh has been criticised for voting against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill – as both Lib Dem deputy leader Simon Hughes, party president Tim Farron and Health Minister Norman Lamb abstained in this week’s vote.
Gay teacher and semi-professional artist, Ruth Ainsworth, who has lived, worked and contributed to Southport’s community for more than 40 years, blasted Dr Pugh’s decision in a letter published by the Southport Visitor.
She wrote: “In among some well-reasoned argument, there are blinding signs that Dr Pugh is out of step with the community that he purports to represent.
“Just to take one point into view, he is under the misconception that same-sex couples do not have children or provide a family life for the people around them.
She added: “To quote: ‘A homosexual couple cannot have children together and without the involvement of third parties will not have families of their own and in most cases anyway are likely to remain childless’.
“As women in a same-sex relationship with a 20-year-old son and a wider family in which I take a central role, I am evidence that this is blatantly not true. I understand that this vote is free and Dr Pugh will make his choice with his own conscience on the matter.”
In response, Dr Pugh said: “The more you think beyond the slogans for and against, the more complex it gets.
“You have to be prepared for massive misrepresentation and misunderstanding, often unintentional but understandable, given the emotional trauma many gay people have endured.
“I have benefited from communication with many constituents on this issue and intend to put my further thoughts on my website.
“So far, Southport people have been largely supportive.
“Ultimately, however, I, with all my limitations, was confronted with a piece of legislation which may send important or mixed signals but which blatantly fails even to achieve the equality it aims at.
“Given the rocky state of marriage and the family in our society, I question whether re-writing centuries of marriage law on the hoof, mid-Parliament is the best way to proceed whatever your objectives, beliefs or sexual orientation, and fear that Parliament has in its haste generated a whole new work stream for the courts,” he added.
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Dr Pugh was one of four Lib Dem MPs to vote against the bill at third reading. They included former children’s minister Sarah Teather, along with Sir Alan Beith and Gordon Birtwistle.
Meanwhile, voting lists show nine of the party’s MPs were absent and so abstained on Tuesday’s vote.
Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Simon Hughes said during the debate on Tuesday that he believes marriage should be “between one man and one woman”.
The openly bisexual MP said he thought that marriage was “gender complimentary”, and that it should be between straight couples only.
“I believe that marriage is ordained by God. I believe it is traditionally ordained by God as between one man and one woman”.
He went on to say that marriage should be for “the creation of children,” and that he had taken a “traditional”, and “Christian”, view on marriage.
Mr Hughes abstained in Tuesday’s vote along with Liberal Democrat President Tim Farron – who is seen as a possible successor to the party’s current leader, Nick Clegg.
Lib Dem MPs, Mark Hunter, Health Minister Norman Lamb, John Leech, Sir Robert Smith, David Ward and Jenny Willott were also not present in the House for the vote.
However, Ms Willott is currently away on maternity leave.