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MP 'has an open mind about gay marriages'
OXFORD West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood has distanced herself from claims she is opposed to legalising gay marriage.
Despite initially writing to constituents to state she would vote against any bill, she has now said she will wait to see any proposed legislation before deciding her position.
It followed criticism from Oxford University undergraduates.
The MP, below, said she felt allowing same-sex couples to marry would open the door to legal rows and human rights infringement cases.
Junior Common Room (JCR) presidents from colleges across the university – including that of Miss Blackwood’s former college St Anne’s, along with Queen’s, Exeter, St Peter’s, Wadham and Somerville colleges – have signed a letter stating their anger at her stance.
It reads: “We are appalled to hear of your intention to oppose legislation on equal marriage and believe it inadequately represents your constituency considering its high student population.”
A further petition has also been sent from 38 JCR and Middle Common Room (MCR) presidents with 200 names on the St Anne’s list alone.
But the MP said her quotes had been taken out of context in student newspapers, and she felt churches should have the right to decide who to marry.
She wrote: “As a strong supporter of civil partnerships and opponent of discrimination in all its forms, I have no principled objection to equal marriage in secular institutions.
“My initial opposition arose from the fact there was no plan to protect religious institutions from litigation and my current concerns are whether the ‘Quadruple Lock’ will be effective.”
The ‘Quadruple Lock’ promises to guarantee that no religious groups would be required to conduct such ceremonies against their will.
She added: “As yet there is no legislation for me to scrutinise but I can assure you I will continue to listen to the views and concerns of constituents on both sides.”
Somerville lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender and queer spokesman Matthew Robinson said Miss Blackwell “grossly misunderstood” the gay community.
He said: “It is not solely acknowledgement that we desire. It is, rather, equality.”
Oxford Pride chairman Rafe Jeune said: “We are striving for equality for everyone and we want to see gay marriage legalised.”
Plans were unveiled last month and a bill is expected to be introduced in the New Year, with the first ceremonies possible as early as 2014.