CROYDON'S three MPs will vote today on a new law which would permit same-sex marriage. Discussion of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Bill will begin in the House of Commons at about 12.30pm. MPs, including the borough's representatives Gavin Barwell, Richard Ottaway and Steve Reed, will then take part in the vote at about 7pm. Croydon Central MP Mr Barwell stated his support for same-sex marriage early on, and is part of the Conservatives' Freedom to Marry campaign group. However, he has stressed he feels there must be protection for religious freedom. In a blog post written on December 9, Mr Barwell said he had thought long and hard about the issue and listened to people who oppose the move, and decided to vote in support of the Bill because it was 'the right thing to do'. "Many of the people who object most strongly to same sex marriage are also the most passionate advocates of marriage as a force for good in our society," he wrote. "If marriage is such a good thing, why wouldn't we want to extend it to same sex couples?" Mr Ottaway, Conservative MP for Croydon South, initially said he was 'undecided' on the issue of gay marriage. He said he had received 'about 200' letters and emails from constituents and said more were against the new law, but added that many of the missives were duplicates. In January, the veteran MP announced he had decided to support the move. He said: "I see no reason, as I approach retirement from politics, to disrespect their view of what is normal today. "We should not stand in the way of a younger generation that clearly wants this reform." Mr Ottaway said in October that he will stand down at the 2015 General Election, leading to speculation over whether London Mayor Boris Johnson could become Croydon South MP. Mr Reed, who was elected Labour MP for Croydon North in November following the death of Malcolm Wicks, has previously said he joined Labour partly because of Ken Livingstone's work promoting equality. "For gay men like me, young and coming to terms with their sexuality, things were difficult," he wrote in Pink News last February in a piece supporting Mr Livingstone's mayoral campaign. "The Tory Government was passing anti-gay legislation that labeled gay relationships second-class, and allowed employers to sack people because of their sexual orientation. "People have forgotten just how tough it was in the 1980s, and how vital it was that a fearless and principled politician like Ken stood out so clearly for lesbian and gay equality." Speaking in Parliament this afternoon, Mr Reed spoke of his experience protesting against section 28, a law enacted in 1988 and repealed in 2003 which provided that local authorities must not 'promote homosexuality', or teach in a state school 'the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship'. "If you don't like gay marriage, don't marry a gay person," Mr Reed told the House of Commons. "But don't stop gay people getting married." Mr Reed said on Twitter he will be supporting the Bill. This evening's vote is a free vote, with the rules requiring party loyalty lifted to permit MPs to vote according to their consciences. Political analysts have speculated that up to 150 of the 303 Conservative MPs may vote against the bill or abstain, with 118 already indicating their opposition. The Labour List has suggested 14 Labour MPs will vote against the Bill and three will abstain, with the intentions of a further 20 MPs unknown.
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