Redefining marriage: Nick Clegg, Owen Paterson, and Queen Elizabeth II (conference centre)

May 23, 2012

Tension between Lib Dem and Tory ministers over whether to redefine marriage heightened in the last 24 hours, with Nick Clegg insisting the plans should go ahead but Owen Paterson saying he will oppose the move.

And in an astonishing assault on free speech, the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster has banned a scheduled pro-marriage conference, due to be addressed by a senior High Court judge.

The Lib Dem leader has warned his Tory partners in the Coalition Government he won’t let them derail plans to redefine marriage, regardless of how strongly they or the public feel about it.

He has signed up to the campaign to change the meaning of marriage, and said: “The Coalition Government, the Liberal Democrats and I remain wholeheartedly committed to lifting the ban on equal civil marriage.”

Ignoring the 70% of the public who want to keep marriage between one man and one woman, he said the Government is “consulting on how, not whether, to introduce proposals for equal marriage”.

Meanwhile, Tory Cabinet Minister Owen Paterson has said he will vote against the plan. The Northern Ireland Secretary said: “Having considered this matter carefully, I am afraid I have come to the decision not to support gay marriage.

“The Prime Minister has made clear that he supports equal civil marriage and the Government is rightly consulting widely on this issue before making any changes to the current position.”

He is the first Cabinet Minister to publicly reject the plans, and the fourth Tory Government minister to voice their disquiet.

The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, yesterday, decided to ban a conference booked to be held at the venue today to discuss the issue of redefining marriage. A spokesperson for the Centre said the event was “not appropriate”.

High Court judge, Sir Paul Colridge, was due to speak at the event alongside Daily Telegraph columnist Cristina Odone. The event was organised by supporters of traditional marriage.

The event had previously been banned from the London headquarters of The Law Society. The event is going ahead today at a hotel elsewhere in London.