English, Roy in minority in gay marriage vote

NEIL RATLEY AND FAIRFAX
Last updated 14:39 30/08/2012

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Southern MPs were in the minority when they voted against the first reading of the Gay Marriage Bill, which was passed 80 to 40 in Parliament last night.

Deputy Prime Minister and Clutha/Southland MP Bill English and Invercargill MP Eric Roy both voted against supporting a bill to legalise gay marriage.

Mr Roy said from Wellington today the vote was not one about his constituents view but a conscience vote.

''This was a vote that MPs had to make for themselves,'' Mr Roy said.

His constituents would have their chance to judge his performance including his conscience votes at the next election, he said.

If people wanted to have sway on decisions such as the Gay Marriage Bill they should get themselves elected, he said.

Mr Roy said he believed the bill was not required at a legal or social level.

The Invercargill MP said he was confident his personal views represented his electorate.

''I am openly conservative with social issues and I don't think that is a bad fit for Invercargill as shown by election results,'' he said.

''Is gay marriage a big issue in Invercargill? I don't know but if you compare it with something like the DART Tunnel it has not raised anywhere near as much emotion or division in the community.''

He did not recall anyone from his electorate calling him up about the Gay Marriage Bill, Mr Roy said.

Mr English was overseas and could not be contacted.

The Definition of Marriage Amendment Bill, sponsored by Labour MP Louisa Wall, had its numbers bolstered at the last minute after several National MPs offered initial support so it can now be considered by a select committee, which will hear from the public.

Speaking from Rarotonga, where he is attending the Pacific Islands Forum, Mr Key today said the "overwhelming result" was bigger than he expected and put the bill in a strong place to become law.

However, he warned several MPs had voted to enable public debate on the issue and were likely to change their minds at subsequent second and third readings.

It will be six to 12 months before Parliament faces a final vote on the bill.

Mr Key said he had encouraged his MPs to do what they believed was right. "I'm not looking at who's voting one way or another, I'm not judging them on it."

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