Hartlepool’s “I do” to same-sex marriage

Hartlepool MP Iain Wright.
Hartlepool MP Iain Wright.

HARTLEPOOL has said “I do” to the notion of same-sex marriage after a Parliamentary vote went in favour of the move.

MPs in the House of Commons voted in favour of gay people being able to tie the knot by 400 to 175, a majority of 225.

There were 136 Tory MPs who opposed the Marriage (Same-sex Couples) Bill, though.

But the news that same-sex couples could get hitched, if the proposed legislation is eventually approved, was welcomed in Hartlepool.

Christopher Akers-Belcher, the town’s Labour group leader who has been in a civil partnership with partner Stephen Akers-Belcher, 33, for seven years, said he welcomed the move.

Town MP Iain Wright voted in favour of the plans in the Commons on Tuesday.

Councillor Akers-Belcher, who represents the Foggy Furze ward, told the Mail: “I welcome the fact that this Bill has gone through, but from a personal point of view because I’m in a civil partnership it’s not going to make a great deal of difference to us.

“Fundamentally we do agree that everybody has the right to get married and really, you shouldn’t have marriage laws for just a certain section of society.”

The 45-year-old dad-of-four and grandad-of-one, from Westbrooke Avenue, Hartlepool, added that some homosexual people want to be married for financial security or even just to be able to legally call their partner “husband or wife”, rather than just civil partner.

“Everyone Stephen and I know refer to us as being married anyway, even though it’s not legally correct,” he said.

“A lot of our friends are really looking forward to it going through and I sincerely hope the legislation doesn’t get savaged when it goes through the House of Lords.”

And if the Bill is nodded through, would the Akers-Belcher’s decide to tie the knot?

“I don’t know to be honest, I like a good wedding and I’ve been married before so perhaps I might do it again,” he said. “And I do like wedding cake!”

Mr Wright echoed Coun Akers-Belcher’s thoughts on the idea and said: “I’m a married man and I believe in the institute of marriage.

“I think it’s a great way in which you can confirm a long-term stable relationship. I don’t see why that stability and right shouldn’t be made to same-sex couples.”

But Father Paul Allinson, of St John the Baptist Church, in Greatham, believed marriage should be left to hetrosexuals as civil partnerships recognised same-sex relationships perfectly well.

But he said he would not adverse to conducting a marriage ceremony for a gay couple if the law was changed and the church agreed.

He said: “For me, the civil partnerships move was quite an important step in recognising the legal status of people in same-sex relationships.

“Marriage as we understand it is between a man and a woman, historically.

“I think in terms of recognising same sex relationships, civil partnerships does that. I think we should leave marriage to opposite sex couples, purely because of what marriage means historically.”

He added: “However, if it got to the point where the church agreed to same-sex marriage then I would be very open-minded to marry a same-sex couple.”

MPs were given a free vote on the bill on Tuesday, meaning they were not ordered to vote a particular way by party whips.

The decision to back the bill at second reading shows they approve of it in principle. The legislation will now receive more detailed parliamentary scrutiny.

l It’s your vote: Page 8