A SENIOR town councillor in Northumberland has quit the Conservatives on principle because of the party’s backing for same-sex marriage.
Matty Donnelly, who sits on Hexham Town Council, handed in his resignation following Tuesday’s Commons vote in which 400 MPs voted in favour of the controversial proposal.
The 66-year-old Christian, who will now stand as an Independent in the next local elections, said: “I cannot affiliate myself with this. I cannot go along with David Cameron and the rest of them.
“I was brought up as a Christian and know the difference between right and wrong.
“I was absolutely astounded at the result of the vote on Tuesday and decided to resign from the Conservative party on the spur.”
Coun Donnelly, who has represented Priestpopple ward on Hexham Town Council since 2003, is a highly-respected figure in the town.
Hexham Tory MP Guy Opperman, who voted in favour, spoke passionately in favour of gay marriage in both an address and on his personal blog this week. But 100 fellow-Tory MPs rebelled against the gay marriage bill, which was eventually passed by a 400-175 majority on Tuesday evening but still has to get through the Lords.
Coun Donnelly attended a local meeting with Mr Opperman and said: “I respect his views and he was quite open and gave straight answers.
“But I am old-fashioned and cannot for the world of me get my head round gay marriage, same-sex marriage, call it what you will.
“I have tendered my resignation to the party branch and will return as an Independent.
“I have mixed feelings about doing this but I have never been a political person as such. I put people before politics.
“Standing as an Independent is a gamble I am quite prepared to take.
“I’m born and brought up in the town and the decision will be left up to the constituents.
“They have always been behind me in the past and I hope they will be behind me now.”
Mr Opperman acknowledged that the vote he made in Parliament on Tuesday “is not the vote that some of my constituents would wish me to make”.
Afterwards, he said: “As a Christian it has taken me a long time to come to this conclusion and I understand that there are, and will continue to be, objections to this proposal.
“However, I believe that society is stronger when we make vows to each other, and support each other through the committed institution of marriage.
“I accept that this extension of the principle is upsetting to some people. However, I believe this is the right approach to take.”
Tory opponents of gay marriage will “move on relatively quickly” once the change is implemented, Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude predicted yesterday.
The issue split the party this week when more of David Cameron’s MPs backed his reform than supported it, with two Cabinet ministers among 136 voting against in a free vote.
Many others abstained, with opponents warning of mass defections of Tory grassroots activists, but the measure easily passed its first Commons hurdle thanks to Labour and Liberal Democrat support.
It is expected to face hard-fought resistance from Tory MPs and peers as it passes through Parliament but Mr Maude said hostility would soon be forgotten.