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Defence minister admits he was wrong to oppose equal marriage after attending ‘wonderful’ gay wedding

Nick Duffy June 20, 2016

A Tory defence minister who voted against same-sex marriage has conceded he got it wrong – after he attended a “wonderful” gay wedding.

Mark Lancaster – a Reservist Lieutenant Colonel who served in Kosovo, Bosnia and Afghanistan – is the Member of Parliament for the North East Milton Keynes.

The Conservative MP, who is also Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, voted against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act in 2013.

At the time, Mr Lancaster said he was “uncomfortable that different faith groups are not being treated equally” under the proposals, adding that he feared same-sex marriage would “inadvertently remove people’s rights for religious freedom”.

But three years later, the MP has admitted he got it wrong on the issue, after attending a friend’s private wedding.

He tweeted: “Attended my first same sex marriage celebrations on Sat, one of the most loving, wonderful events I have been to. Guess I was wrong in 2013.”

The public change-of-heart was welcomed by Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson, who wrote: “We need a bit more of this – the ability to change position; and being big enough to acknowledge it. Thanks, Mark.”

Mr Lancaster is married to equalities minister Caroline Dinenage, who went through a similar change-of-heart.

The equalities minister told PinkNews last year: ” As soon as I’d gone through the voting lobby, I thought to myself, ‘what on earth are you doing?

“If you look at my voting record, there were five or six votes on same-sex marriage and I didn’t vote against it again. I only did it the once.

“I thought, ‘This is ridiculous, you have to go with actually what’s in your heart and what you believe in’.”

And the pair are far from alone in changing their minds.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has become a strong supporter of LGBT rights despite voting against equality, telling PinkNews she “got it wrong” on the issue.

She said: “The whole point about being in politics is about learning. One of the privileges of being an MP and minister is you are meeting different people and learning.

“Hopefully people will understand that I’ve said I got it wrong and my position had changed.

“Some people are more comfortable with making assumptions about something: ‘You voted that way therefore you must be this kind of person.’ That surprises me, how challenged people feel by someone changing their minds.”

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron also told PinkNews that he “regrets anything that gives people the wrong impression” over his mixed LGBT rights record, strongly endorsing equality.

Former Conservative Party chair Baroness Warsi also admitted she regrets being on the “wrong side of history” on LGBT rights in a PinkNews interview.

Referring to homophobic leaflets she distributed while unsuccessfully running for election in 2005, she said: “My leaflet in 2005 and my party’s stance in the past was wrong. We were late in coming to this agenda and we were on the wrong side of history.”

More: Caroline Dinenage, Conservative, England, Gay, LGBT, Mark Lancaster, marriage, Same-sex, sexuality, Tory, wedding

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