MOST of our local MPs backed the historic gay marriage Bill this week – but Tonbridge MP Sir John Stanley has found himself under fire for suggesting the move would "damage" young people.
Sir John and his Sevenoaks counterpart Michael Fallon were among the 136 Conservatives to vote against the Bill, while the four other parliamentarians for this area backed the Government.
However, Sir John, who supported the civil partnerships legislation in 2004, drew anger from gay rights charities with comments he made in a letter to his constituents in Tonbridge, Malling and Edenbridge.
The long-serving politician, 71, said he believed legalising gay marriage could be damaging to young people going through a "normal phase" of same-sex attraction before ending up heterosexual.
James Lawrence from Stonewall said: "Allowing more people to celebrate and formalise their love and commitment for each other won't 'damage' anyone.
"But suggesting to lesbian, gay or bisexual young people that they're 'going through a phase', as it appears to me he is doing, is profoundly damaging when over half of gay young people already face homophobic bullying every day."
Sarah McNally from The Lesbian and Gay Foundation added it was not a valid reason for opposing the Bill.
She said: "The Marriage (Same-Sex) Couples Bill is concerned with consenting adults who wish to have their love and commitment recognised equally in the eyes of the law and society.
"We feel MP Sir John Stanley is confusing the issue as young people's sexuality is not relevant in this case and do not feel it's a valid reason for opposing the Bill."
In his letter, Sir John explained: "I consider that enshrining gay marriage into law will be unhelpful, and in some cases positively damaging, to young people going through the perfectly normal phase of being attracted to other young people of the same sex before arriving at a heterosexual orientation subsequently."
He added he felt the legislation would create "considerable difficulties" for parents, teachers, churches and others who have responsibilities for young people.
Now the Bill has been backed in principle, it will receive more detailed scrutiny before becoming law.