Defense chief not backing gay marriage

May 13, 2012 at 5:08 PM

LONDON, May 13 (UPI) -- British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond refused to back legislation allowing gay marriage, saying "it's not the No. 1 priority."

England is currently looking at plans to allow gay marriage in the country, The Daily Telegraph reported Sunday.

"Clearly it's not the No. 1 priority. If you stop people in the street and ask them what their concerns are, they'll talk to you about jobs and economic growth, they'll talk to you about the level of the wages they're earning, wanting to see real growth in wages again," Hammond said.

"There is no legislation in the Queen's Speech [on gay marriage]; there's a consultation going on, and we should look at, listen to what people are saying in response to that consultation," he said. "But I think the government has got to show over the next couple of years that it is focused on the things that matter to the people in this country -- not just the short-term things but the long-term things as well; the reform of our education system, changing the welfare system -- which is like turning around a super-tanker -- changing the welfare system so that work always pays, and people have an incentive to work."

Tim Loughton, the children's minister, also said he was opposed to allowing gay marriage.

"Marriage as a religious institution cannot be anything other than between a man and a woman," Loughton said. "I do not see why we need to change the law, especially at this time when there are so many other important matters for the Government to be addressing."

Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat Home Office minister who is overseeing the gay marriage consultation, said the consultation was about "how, not whether" the measure is introduced.

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