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Councillor quits over Tories’ gay marriage proposals
Published 18/02/13

A HENLEY town councillor has resigned from the Conservative Party over the Government’s decision to introduce marriage for same-sex couples.

Councillor David Silvester says he opposed several coalition policies but the Prime Minister’s support of gay marriage urged him to defect to the UK Independence Party.

Last week, MPs passed a Bill legalising same-sex marriage in England and Wales by a 225 majority, although 136 Conservatives came out against in the free vote.

David Cameron described the move as “an important step forward” that would strengthen society.

Cllr Silvester said he had long been on the Eurosceptic wing of the party and canvassed for the Referendum Party in the 1997 General Election. He also opposed the £32 billion high-speed rail scheme.

In a letter to the Standard, he said: “I do not trust David Cameron’s assurances about a referendum because he has broken his promise on such a measure once before and I believe he is quite capable of doing it again. In addition, I am implacably opposed to the high-speed rail, which will dissect the beautiful Chilterns area I have lived in, or close to, for most of my life.”

He said he could have lived with these policies but the proposition to fast track the legalisation of gay marriage was “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.

Cllr Silvester, of Luker Avenue, Henley, said: “The Prime Minister defied the majority in his party to propose and pass an anti- Christian and ungodly vote to sanction same-sex marriage.

“His ‘victory’ on a topic that was not in the Conservative election manifesto came by deliberately relying on the wholesale votes of the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties.

“I am not prepared to continue with a local or national party which connives its leader acting in such a way on such an important subject to a Bible-believing Christian.”

A Downing Street spokesman said: “Like all Conservatives, the Prime Minister believes in marriage as an institution which helps people to commit to each other and to say that they are going to care and love for another person.

“It helps people to put aside their selfish interests and think of the union that they are forming and society is a better and stronger place as a result. He does not think the state should stop people getting married unless there are very good reasons and he sincerely believes that being gay, lesbian or bisexual is not one of them.”

* Henley MP John Howell said that deciding which way to vote in the gay marriage debate was the “most difficult” issue he has faced.

Mr Howell, who spoke during the debate, said: “I decided to vote for the Bill on the grounds that it’s now sent out to committee where the major issues can be looked at in more depth. There was no right or wrong decision and it was an issue of conscience as it was a free vote. The issue was the most difficult that I’ve ever had to vote on.”

He said he had received letters from constituents both in favour and against the proposed legislation which he had taken into consideration.

Published 18/02/13

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