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Pendle MP laughs off gay marriage debate lookalike confusion
EAST Lancashire MP Andrew Stephenson has described as “comical” a confusion which saw a speech by a gay lookalike Tory colleague in the Parliamentary debate on same sex marriage attributed to him.
The Press Association claimed the Pendle backbencher spoke movingly about “trying to reconcile being gay with his deeply held religious beliefs”. But Mr Stephenson was not in the Commons Chamber and the speech was actually given by Pudsey Tory MP Stuart Andrew.
MPs voted in favour of same sex marriage in the controversial debate but the vote split East Lancashire’s representatives.
Mr Stephenson burst out laughing when told of the confusion and said it had happened before.
The Tory party vice-chairman, who voted in favour, said: “I regard this as comical rather than serious.
“It has happened before but not quite as comically.
“I don’t have a problem with being confused with Stuart, who is a good friend and an MP I admire — except for my being a Lancastrian and him being a Yorkshireman. PA have confused us before, as has even Speaker John Bercow.
“The last time a speech of Stuart’s was attributed to me it was about trains. It’s happened so often he even sent me a Christmas card ‘To Stuart from Andrew’. People seem to think we look alike.
“I think I am better looking as any Lancastrian would be compared to a Yorkie. I don’t have any problem with a speech by him about his problems reconciling his Christianity and being gay attributed to me by mistake.
“I don’t think it is constructive to stick labels on people.”
Mr Andrew said: “Being mistaken for Andrew always makes me smile. But if he ever gets promoted I will always wonder whether that call was really meant for me.
“Mind you, the reverse could apply!”
Hyndburn MP Graham Jones and Blackburn’s Jack Straw voted in favour of legalising gay marriage.
Deputy Speakers, Chorley Labour MP Lindsay Hoyle and Ribble Valley Tory Nigel Evans, could not vote as they chaired part of the debate. Mr Evans, who is gay, is understood to privately support the bill.
Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle was one of just four Liberal Democrat MPs to vote against while Rossendale and Darwen Tory Jake Berry abstained.
The bill will enable same-sex couples, who can currently engage in civil partnerships, to get married in religious ceremonies with the consent of religious institutions and the ministers concerned.
Mr Birtwistle said: “I have no problem being one of only four LibDems voting against. It was a matter of conscience.”
Mr Berry said: “This was the most difficult decision I have made as an MP. I am in favour of equality but I am against this bill because I am concerned about the safeguards for religious freedom. I did not want to replace discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation with discrimination on grounds of faith.”
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