I'll legalise gay marriage by 2015, vows Cameron: PM warns opponents from the Church 'not to lock people out'

David Cameron yesterday promised that gay marriage will be legalised by 2015, as he compared Church opposition with Conservatives who once ‘locked out’ homosexuals from the party.

The Prime Minister also paid tribute to Tony Blair for paving the way by introducing civil partnerships.

In remarks that will concern some Tory traditionalists, he said: ‘I am absolutely determined that this Coalition government will follow in that tradition by legislating for gay marriage in this Parliament.’

Praising the institution of marriage, he added: ‘It’s something I feel passionately about and I think if it’s good enough for straight people like me, it’s good enough for everybody and that’s why we should have gay marriage and we will.’

Mr Cameron, who was speaking at a Number 10 reception for members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community, has promised his MPs a free vote on the issue.

But the Lib Dems will be whipped to vote in favour of it.

The Prime Minister compared his opponents in the Church to parts of the Tory party who fought against gay rights and ‘for many, many years got itself on the wrong side of this argument’.

He said: ‘It locked people out who were naturally Conservative from supporting [the party] and so I think I can make that point to the Church, gently.’

The Church should not ‘be locking out people who are gay, or are bisexual or are transgender from being full members of that Church, because many people with deeply held Christian views, are also gay’, he added.

‘And just as the Conservative Party, as an institution, made a mistake in locking people out so I think the Churches can be in danger of doing the same thing.’

Ministers in the Scottish Parliament yesterday promised to bring forward laws enabling same-sex marriage by the start of 2015.

Mr Cameron wants similar laws in England and Wales by that year.

He said that changing the culture towards gay and lesbian people ‘on the

football field or in the rugby dressing room’ would be difficult.

But he added: ‘The promise I can make you is that this Coalition government is committed to both changing the law and also working to help change the culture, and the Conservative party absolutely backs that.

‘This is something... I personally feel very passionately about.’

The Government launched a consultation on gay marriage earlier this year.

Yesterday Tory MP Peter Bone said it would be a ‘sham’ consultation if the Government had already made up its mind, adding: ‘We are talking about something which is clearly divisive.

The bulk of Conservative MPs hope that this will quietly be left until after the next election.’

Mike Judge, of the Christian Institute, said: ‘The Prime Minister’s sneering remarks show his own intolerance of religious people who disagree with him on gay marriage.

‘It is incredibly arrogant of him to tell churches what religious beliefs they should and shouldn’t hold. No wonder huge swathes of churchgoers are suspicious of his motives.’

He added: ‘Voters would rather he was working to boost the flagging economy, not meddling with marriage and lecturing the church.

'The plans to redefine marriage are unnecessary, unpopular, divisive, and a vote-loser. It is high time they were dumped.’