Today we will vote on the Bill. I have found this a difficult and divisive issue within my constituency and in the Conservative party. I came to it with no preconceptions.
As a modern Conservative I understand the wish to allow people to live their lives as they choose, as long as they do not harm others. There is a strong impulse to freedom in Conservatism which can pioneer desirable social reform. I suspect the reformers will win the vote today on the grounds that the law should not prevent same sex people marrying if they wish.
I also understand the strrength of feeling of many traditional Conservatives, who say Parliament should not change or reform long established institutions without good reason. They write to me to say they support civil partnership, but for religious, historical and legal reasons think marriage has to be defined as a relationship between a woman and a man. They do not write as bigots, though they are often criticised as such. They point out that the Conservative Manifesto of 2010 did not contain a pledge to change the law of marriage. They point out my personal Manifesto did not do so either.
National polling shows that a majority of the public supports the Bill. It also shows that opposition is strongest amongst religious groups,and amongst ethnic groups that have preserved a greater sense of the importance of faith in their lives.
My consultation with constituents has been wide ranging. Some have responded to the website request on the blog, where a majority favour the Bill by a margin of 4 to 1. I have also had 96 letters against and 7 in favour in reply. More have responded to my Parliamentary email, where a large majority have opposed the Bill. In the last two days alone I have had 4 emails in favour and 45 against.
I am very conscious that I cannot please everyone when the constituency is so split. I will keep my word and vote for the side that wrote in in larger numbers, which means voting No to the Bill.