UK Prime Minister David Cameron Comes Out In Support of Gay Marriage

Conservative British prime minister David Cameron has come out in support of gay marriage. In the United States and Canada this would be an earth-shattering contradiction. But, in Cameron’s view, it makes perfect sense.

At a Conservative Party convention in Manchester on Wednesday, Cameron told an audience of supporters that he supported the commitment of marriage, regardless of who that marriage is between:

“I once stood before a Conservative conference and said it shouldn’t matter whether commitment was between a man and a woman, a woman and a woman, or a man and another man. You applauded me for that. Five years on, we’re consulting on legalising gay marriage.

And to anyone who has reservations, I say: Yes, it’s about equality, but it’s also about something else: commitment. Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other. So I don’t support gay marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a Conservative.”

David Cameron at Pride 2010 via Reuters

Cameron’s government has also announced it is consulting on introducing same-sex marriage legislation before 2015 (the year of the next general election). Specifically, the consultation is about how to implement gay marriage, and not about whether or not it’s a good idea.

Some MPs and religious figures are not pleased about this. According to the Daily Telegraph, changing the legal definition might lead to ministerial resignations. Tory MP Gerald Howarth said that gay marriage was a matter of “conscience” and that conservative party whips should not try to get conservative MPs to vote for it. He also played the “some of my friends are gay so it’s OK if I don’t like gay marriage” card:

“Some of my best friends are in civil partnerships, which is fine, but I think it would be a step too far to suggest that this is marriage. I take the view that marriage can only be between a man and a woman. That is what Christian marriage is about.”

Cameron has also been criticized by members of the religious community. Kieran Conry, the Catholic Bishop of Arundel and Brighton, supporting marriage is good, but supporting gay marriage is not:

“I think the Church will have to do something. We can’t just let this slide by and say we are not interested. It is the question of protecting the particular, specific institution of marriage and its specific character as the permanent union of a man and a woman who would then bring up their own children.”

According to Pink News, the Catholic Church and the Church of England are expected to oppose the legislation.

To make sweeping and only mostly accurate generalizations, in the United States and (to a lesser extent) in Canada, conservatives emphasize the gay part of gay marriage, and oppose it. Cameron emphasizes the marriage part of gay marriage, and supports it. And conservative religious groups are pro-marriage, but only straight marriage, across the board.

Earlier this week, Rachel Maddow talked about feeling conflicted about gay marriage — that gay alternative ways of recognizing relationships are valuable, and risk being changed or lost when incorporated into the mainstream institution of marriage.

The gay marriage debate, across the board, is still very much about gay rights: straight people can get married, so gay people should be able to. But at the same time, Cameron’s and Maddow’s comments raise an interesting point. There is, after all, a reason that ads like this one are funny:

Image of British PM David Cameron at a 2010 gay pride reception via Reuters.

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Ryan Yates

Ryan Yates was the NSFW Editor (2013–2018) and Literary Editor for, with bylines in Nylon, Refinery29, The Toast, Bitch, The Daily Beast, Jezebel, and elsewhere. They live in Los Angeles and also on twitter and instagram.

Ryan has written 1142 articles for us.


  1. God I wish this was the case in the US. this feels like reading about a fantasy alternate universe.

  2. That is certainly an interesting if problematic argument for marriage equality. But hey, I’ll take what I can get!

  3. I bet he’s saying this now because the Lib Dems already pledged it (I think). He KNOWS all the younger people tend to side with them. Even after the great tuition fees fiasco. Checking the way the Conservatives vote on ht epublic whip tends to make me die a little inside.

    • As a staunch anti-Tory I have to say…so what? Personally, I don’t think this opinion is going to make him popular to a lot of his party, so it would be quite a risk to take to appeal to a different demographic. It is also a slightly bizarre choice of issues to appeal to young people. He’s remaining defiant on so many issues impacting them all and in contrast gay marriage – although supported – is not likely to be the biggest issue to the straight majority. I’m gay, it’s a big issue to me, yet it still wouldn’t make me consider voting for him. Maybe he just thinks it’s the right thing to do.

      Sometimes people who you oppose can have opinions which you agree with and that should be celebrated. I like when it doesn’t have to be a constant battle between political sides.

  4. Come on, America, get your act together!
    It always give me warm fuzzies to see politicians supporting gay marriage. Unfortunately it’s REALLY HARD to get rights for minorities, because, well, they’re minorities. So this is a step in the right direction.

  5. As someone who is gay, a conservative and a Cameron supporter, this is just like Christmas, Hanukkah and Pancake day rolled into one.

  6. is anyone else horrified by the idea that marriage should be a framework for men and women to raise their OWN children? they’re against adoption, too?

  7. Why thank you Mr Cameron. I do not have anything cynical to say about him for a change.

    Although…..A. Homophobic bishops shouldn’t work in Brighton. It is shattering my delusions about the place. B. I wish the religious people complaining about gay marriage would focus on the fact that they have no obligation to perform gay marriages. What a silly argument. They should work on getting civil marriages banned.

  8. This is a very interesting take on being a conservative. I agree with Rose, this says a lot about the political climate there vs. here. Could this have something to do with how elections are held there? Maybe someone can explain this to me (or I can do some research) but my understanding is that in the UK individual candidates are not elected. A party and its platform is. This is where I’m really only speculating, but I think you probably lose the bitterness and scary sky-is-falling attacks over there and I would think individual members of government will feel less politically motivated to avoid certain votes or try certain stunts. I feel more conservatives are moving to this view, even in the U.S., but it’s slow as the vocal minority who oppose gay marriage reinforce it as a political issues for our elected officials.

    This is definitely fascinating and I wish I could say I was aware enough of foreign politics to know Cameron had been pro-gay marriage previously. I look forward to hearing more about this and hope it happens soon.

    • Hi magicmuffins,

      I’m an Australian but born in England. Basically, as you correctly said, voters do not vote for the individual but for the party. The members (as in – elected members) choose who they want to be their leader and – if it’s the party in power – therefore, the Prime Minister.

      A sidenote that may interest you: In Australia (they don’t have it in the UK) we also have a really quite rare and controversial aspect of our political system. Basically, while our ‘head of state’ is the Queen (with the Prime Minister running the country of course), the Governor General is her representative in Australia. And while the Governor General is more or less considered a symbolic role, it can wield huge power, so much power in fact, that it can formally remove a current Prime Minister from office. This has only happened once in Australian history and it was one of the biggest controversies of Australian history.

      If you’re interested :)

      I’m currently living in Hawaii and it’s been fascinating to learn about the American system of government.

      I’m no fan of the Torys but if that’s the reasoning that Cameron gives then I’m all for it, tbh.

  9. Yes in the UK we vote for the party/our local MP and th head of that party becomes Prime Minister.

    I loved that speach, I have my issues with Cameron but for whatever personal or political reason he has supposed gay marriage since 2006 and voted for Civil Partnerships. I hope this does happen and doesn’t get stalled by outcry from Bishops etc as it has before.

    For better or worse depending on your POV I see his position that marriage and family are the key here and something we should respect, becoming the consensus conservative position over the next few years. Because it does make sense, elimiate being gay/having gay rights from being a purely liberal/progressive position and a lot of gay folk will “come out” as otherwise conservative, whether or not you think that is a good thin.

    It’s also a mark of how different my two cultures (I have dual citizenship) are that Cameron’s office felt the need to point out that he personally intervened in the issue and intends to make sure it happens despite the fact it will piss of any of the old Tory Guard remaining whilst President Obama still has to speak in riddles about his potential support.

    Now if only someone at the Value Voter Summit realised that…

  10. Although before any non-Brits get too sweet on the Conservatives, they’ve had seriously dodgy past (at least by British standards, where being non-anti-gay is edging towards being as expected as being anti-racism and anti-sexism) wrt gay rights.

    For example, looking at the way they’ve voted, you see that: the last cabinet [Labour, and the other party, the Liberal Democrats has a similar number] 90% in favour of gay rights; new cabinet [Conservatives] 43% in favour. and

    Plus the Conservative Equality Minister voted against equalising the age of consent, against gay adoption, against IVF for lesbian couples, against the repeal of the British Section 28, legislation that banned the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality by local government and schools [David Cameron also has DODGE history on that one – he accused then Prime Minister Tony Blair :”Blair has moved heaven and earth to allow the promotion of homosexuality in schools”.] . And alot of her party agreed with her on these issues

    So they’re still a bit evil, is what I’m saying.
    (although yay, I guess for potential gay marriage. Cameron’s family! marriage! birth! nuclear family! is mildly nauseating, but nevermind)

  11. This pleases me a lot. Since Civil Unions were introduced here I’ve always imagined marriage equality was completely off the cards – this was our compromise, so many people now refer to civil unions as gay marriage, and get completely confused when I tell them that actually, marriage equality doesn’t exist.

  12. I don`t know if politics is really the deciding factor here at all.I believe it`s the secularism of England.Remember about 40% of England don`t believe in a god or diety.In the US that number is 6-10% at best one of the lowest if not the lowest in the world.Sweden is the most atheistic country in the world and one of the safest and most harmonius.It`s much easier to believe people who are different from you are acceptable when you don`t have a religious belief system telling you to hate them,ala Westboro Baptist.

    England has these hate groups as well and obviously not all religious people hate gays but I think that is what you see at play here.Conservatism in countries like Canada and England is more similar to liberalism in the US than they are to US conservatism.That is an overgeneralization obviously,but religion causes all kinds of hatred in my opinion.

    • We’re even less religious than that:
      “In a poll conducted by YouGov in March 2011 on behalf of the BHA, when asked the census question ‘What is your religion?’, 61% of people in England and Wales ticked a religious box (53.48% Christian and 7.22% other) while 39% ticked ‘No religion’.

      When the same sample was asked the follow-up question ‘Are you religious?’, only 29% of the same people said ‘Yes’ while 65% said ‘No’, meaning over half of those whom the census would count as having a religion said they were not religious. ”

      Even of the small amount left over who say they’re religious some of those are Anglicans (people from my Catholic school said it was more of a hobby than a religion) Anglicans have gay priests and everything.


    I like this whole supporting gay marriage thing….but I also like the NHS and people being able to afford going to university.

    COME ON LABOUR, UP YOUR FUCKING GAME. This is the time for them to really push the gay marriage thing and sort themselves out, make some serious, realistic promises and give David Cameron a big V sign.
    I hate him. I hate his SMARMY SMOOTHY BASTARD FACE. He’s pushing this to make him popular and deflect from the evil cloud he’s conjeuring up above….but still….it’s a good move.
    It would be nice to get married and stuff.

  14. Oh, is it only Christians who get married? Sorry, I must have missed that “Marriage is a strictly Christian institution” thing. Oops.

  15. 1)For all intents and purposes gay people in the UK can get married, it’s just called a civil partnership.
    It wouldn’t give gay people any extra rights when they entered into a marriage rather than a civil partnership, all it does is aggravate religious people who wouldn’t want the word marriage used.

    2) British Conservatives (Really English conservatives since nobody else in the UK really votes for them) aren’t as socially conservative as Republicans in the US (and not 1/10 as religious either). They believe in a small state which puts the NHS and Universities at risk. They’re also mostly funded by big business/ the City so put the interests of business before society at large.

    So essentially, I expect Cameron to be nice to gays – if he starts being nice to the poor, the sick or single parents though that’d really be a turn up for the books.

  16. Sorry, but just had to point this out.

    What were the pagans doing before Christianity came along? Giving the sweet lovins to goats? Who cares what gender you are (and I am in a committed heterosexual relationship)?

    Hello, everyone, pay attention…People love each other, and I am fairly conservative in my views. Let them love each other, pay taxes, get old and fart just like the rest of us!

    Bunch of whiny old people afraid of the future, IMHO. Get used to it, at least it will cut down on the population!

  17. Well this is cool. I always did want to move to England…

    People against gay marriage are ridiculous. Like, truly ridiculous. Don’t they realise that this is going to happen, no matter how long it takes? It’s freaking inevitable. Why would you continue to support a ridiculous position that is obviously going to make you look like you belong in the Dark Ages very, very soon? Stupid people who can’t think long term… their own fault for looking like asses later.

    • I know that running away from our problems is never the answer, but if all of Autostraddle just said fuck it and moved to England, I’d be super happy.

  18. All said and done we ahve to ensure there is equality all round

    There is no such thing as Gay Marriage, there is marriage

    we need to remember that there is a need to open up

    Civil Marriage
    Civil Partnerships

    to both same sex couples and opposite ses couples

    There are also many people that do not want to commit into something that has the word Marriage in it.

    I am in a civil partnership and love and am proud of the fact

    There are many oposite sex couples that do not want Marriage or Civil Marriage – so open up Civil Partnerships for them to

    Equality is looking at this from all sides and not just one

Comments are closed.