Gay marriage ‘is Sidmouth’s hottest topic’

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Ballot Box - Credit: Getty Images

GAY marriage has been highlighted as the biggest issue on the doorsteps of Sidmouth households, according to candidates who competed for its county council seat.

Nominees who canvassed the town for support in this month’s elections were surprised not to be quizzed about topics like schools, roads and care homes.

They say their views on same-sex couples tying the knot was the most frequently asked question, despite the issue has absolutely no relevance to the job carried out by the county council.

One resident even requested that those standing in the Sidmouth/Sidford ward sign a pledge declaring they were against gay marriage – and the two who gained the most votes did so.

“It is a huge issue in Sidmouth – massive,” said the victorious Councillor Stuart Hughes, who polled 1,923 votes, to retain his seat.

“A lot of people raised the subject matter with me. As soon as I said I was not in favour of gay marriage, they said: ‘then I’ll be voting for you’. It’s amazing, but it was certainly the biggest issue on the doorsteps.

“I do not support gay marriage – I feel civil partnerships was far enough.”

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“It was probably the most important thing that was spoken about,” said UKIP’s Lawrie Brownlee, who took second place with 1,505 votes.

“I was surprised.

“I didn’t think it was as big an issue as it was.

“Nobody was being anti-gay, it was more ‘we are a heterosexual couple, we do marriage, and that is our provenance’.

“I didn’t have anybody say anything to me that was homophobic.”

Mr Brownlee, an atheist, said his views were in accordance with UKIP’s policy - in favour of civil partnerships but not same-sex marriage.

Both Cllr Hughes and Mr Brownlee signed a pledge on the issue.

West Park Road resident Roger Carver sent the four aspiring members the petition by the Coalition for Marriage, asking them to promise to keep the institution exclusively for a man and a woman.

“A lot of people are concerned marriage is being redefined, and they don’t think the government should get involved,” said churchgoer Mr Carver.

“It is already a divisive situation – these are beliefs people have had for hundreds of years.”

Mr Carver said Labour candidate Judy Blackwell opposed the petition and Liberal Democrat Martin Gammell did not respond.