MOST Hampshire Conservative MPs defied David Cameron last night by voting against controversial plans to legalise gay marriage.
But they were unable to prevent the measure clearing a crucial Commons hurdle - with a majority of 225 - thanks to the overwhelming backing of Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill - allowing same-sex weddings, including ceremonies in some churches that agree - is now poised to become law.
The prime minister, while allowing a free vote, had argued marriage made society stronger “whether you're a man and a woman, a woman and a woman or a man and another man”.
But Caroline Nokes (Romsey and Southampton North), Julian Lewis (New Forest East), Steve Brine (Winchester), Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) and Caroline Dinenage (Gosport) all voted 'no' last night.
Ms Nokes protested that - despite government promises of a “quadruple lock” of legal protections - churches could face a court challenge if they refused to allow gay couples to marry there.
She said “the vast majority of my constituents” opposed gay marriage, adding: “I am not convinced the safeguards sought by the Church of England have been guaranteed.”
Mr Turner said marriage should “remain between a man and a woman”, adding: “There is absolutely no mandate to introduce this legislation and I believe Parliament should be concentrating on more pressing issues.”
Tory Mark Hoban (Fareham) did not vote while Desmond Swayne (Conservative, New Forest West) did not register a vote because he was a counter for the yes side.
Mr Swayne had backed the Bill on his website, arguing “a few gay weddings” would make absolutely no difference to the vast majority of people, He wrote: “They will be occasions of joy and celebration for those involved, but overwhelmingly nobody else will notice.”
And he criticised some letters from opponents, saying: “Given that so many of these letters and emails come from churchgoing Christians, a number of them lack a very important virtue -charity.”
John Denham (Southampton Itchen) and Alan Whitehead (Southampton Test) were among the vast majority of Labour MPs who voted for the Bill.
Mr Denham said: “I'm in favour. I believe that gay couples should be able to celebrate their long term love and commitment to each other as straight couples can do.”
The debate was led by Maria Miller, the Conservative Basingstoke MP and Culture Secretary, who said: “The depth of feeling, love and commitment is no different between same-sex couples than opposite-sex couples.”
There was astonishment that Mr Cameron - despite personally pushing forward the gay marriage Bill - was nowhere to be seen when it was debated yesterday.
Some modernising Tories believed the prime minister had ducked a chance to put the case and swing some wavering MPs into voting 'yes'.
HOW YOUR MP VOTED:
- Steve Brine (Con, Winchester) NO
- John Denham (Lab, Southampton Itchen) YES
- Mark Hoban (Con, Fareham) DID NOT VOTE
Chris Huhne (Lib Dem, Eastleigh) NO LONGER MP
- Dr Julian Lewis (Con, New Forest East) NO
- Caroline Nokes (Con, Romsey & Southampton North) NO
- Desmond Swayne (Con, New Forest West) Did not vote since a counter for the yes side
- Dr Alan Whitehead (Lab, Southampton Test) YES
- Caroline Dinenage (Con, Gosport) NO
- Maria Miller (Con, Basingstoke) YES
- Andrew Turner (Con, Isle of Wight) NO
- Sir George Young (Con, North West Hampshire) YES
- George Hollingbery (Con, Meon Valley) YES