Final recognition? Tory conference cheers gay marriage

By Ruth McKee

Gay marriage was the surprise crowd pleaser of the Conservative party conference today, as delegates cheered the prospect of legalising same-sex marriages.

The prime minister issued a robust defence of the consultation on same-sex marriage to loud applause in the hall – a reaction which would have been considered unthinkable just a few years ago.

"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," the prime minister said.

"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."

Although civil-partnerships have been legal since 2004, gay rights campaigners argued that they don't offer the cultural recognition to partners as marriage does, which has remained an exclusively heterosexual institution.

However, Mr Cameron soon returned to the familiar ground of the party faithful, promising to reward 'family values' through giving tax breaks to married couples.

"Marriage is not just a piece of paper. It pulls couples together through the ebb and flow of life," he said.

"It gives children stability. And it says powerful things about what we should value. So yes, we will recognise marriage in the tax system."