Gay marriage was approved in Parliament this week and Eastbourne MP Stephen Lloyd joined other local members in voting in favour of the bill.
Eastbourne’s Lib Dem MP Stephen Lloyd and Conservative MPs Greg Barker, for Pevensey, and Charles Hendry, for Wealden, all voted in favour of same-sex marriage in the key Commons vote, despite opposition of almost half the Conservative MPs.
Polegate MP Norman Baker was at a meeting, being held in France, and was unable to vote or take part in the debate.
The Commons voted in favour by 400 to 175, a majority of 225, at the end of a full day’s debate on Monday (February 7).
Mr Lloyd said he had received letters from constituents who felt strongly on both sides of the argument, but had voted with his heart and for what he believed in.
Mr Lloyd said, “The issue of equal marriage is profoundly important on many levels – for gay people who wish to make the ultimate commitment to someone they love; and to many people of faith who feel anxious about what to this means to the very meaning of marriage.
“I have been contacted by many constituents on both sides of the argument who are passionate in their view. I would like to express my thanks to those local residents who contacted me, and for being so courteous in their correspondence, despite their obvious strength of feeling over the issue.
“Conscience votes are exactly that; MPs are given a free vote and this was a responsibility I took very seriously.
“To me it comes down to whether or not same-sex couples should be able to enjoy the privilege of making that ultimate commitment - marrying someone they love.
“In my heart, I believe that in a free society they should be able to which is why I voted for the equal marriage bill.”
Mr Lloyd has been criticised for his decision.
Ian Lucas, Tory activist and former leader of Eastbourne Borough Council, told the Herald Mr Lloyd was wrong to vote in favour of the bill.
Mr Lucas said, “He has not voted for the people. The majority of people in Eastbourne are not in favour. It is very disappointing that he has voted this way.
“Lots of people have written to him on the issue, including myself, and he just knocked it back and voted for it anyway, irrespective of what everybody else thinks.”
Mr Lucas said his believed the vote should not have been brought to Parliament in the first place. He said it had been done by Prime Minster David Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg on a ‘whim’.
Mr Lucas added, “There is no democratic mandate for the vote. It wasn’t in any manifesto.
“I have spoken to lots of people in Eastbourne and the vast majority are uninterested and think it is an unimportant issue. No-one really wants it – what they want is for the government to sort out the economy instead of mucking around with this.”
Pevensey and Westham MP Greg Barker also gave the bill his backing and said, “I recognise that many people, including many people locally, hold strong views on the other side of the argument which I respect. I hope in time, just as civil partnerships came to command strong support in the country, there will be much greater consensus on this issue as well.”
Mr Barker made tabloid news in 2006 when it was reported he left his wife for a gay lover, who was the interior decorator at the family home.
What do the people of Eastbourne think? See page nine for this week’s Your Say.