Defence secretary, who opposes PM’s plans to grant gay couples right to marry, denies accusation
Philip Hammond, the defence secretary, has become embroiled in a row over equal marriage amid claims that he likened it to incest.
The minister, who opposes David Cameron’s plans to grant gay couples the right to marry, denied equating equal marriage with incest after Pink News reported that he had linked the two issues.
Hammond released a statement after Pink News reported that he had made the comments to two students at Royal Holloway, University of London, on Friday.
The website reported that Hammond “told students in Surrey that allowing gay couples to marry would be like sanctioning ‘incest’ … When the students asked why, the MP believed the government should retain a ban on same-sex marriages, he responded by likening the current ban on equal marriage to ‘incest’, where it is illegal for two siblings to enter into wedlock.”
A spokesman for the defence secretary said: “It’s untrue. He didn’t equate equal marriage to incest.”
One of the students told the Guardian that Hammond had not actually used the word “incest”, but had raised the issue when he was challenged about his opposition to equal marriage. Joe Rayment told the Guardian: “When I asked Philip Hammond what right the state has to tell two people in love that they can’t get married, he said: ‘Well, siblings can’t get married either’. We found this a very offensive and quite disgusting thing for him to say.”
The physics student, 21, said that Hammond offered to meet him and a second student, Jack Saffery-Rowe, 19, after hearing that they were organising a protest during a visit to the university to address politics students.
Rayment added: “We asked him to go outside and face the protestors and tell the gay protestors outside that he didn’t think they should be allowed to get married. He said he wouldn’t play silly games with us.
“I asked him to tell Jack, who is gay, that he doesn’t believe Jack should be able to get married. He didn’t because he won’t face the reality of his opposition to it.”
Rayment said: “Philip Hammond was very slippery in the meeting. We were unravelling his arguments and picking them apart and he avoided any of our arguments.”