A constituent sought my opinion last week on a matter of extreme importance to him. Did I support the proposal to force Roman Catholic adoption agencies to accept that they had to accept same sex civil partnerships as prospective foster parents. I couldn't answer. I have thought a lot about this question. It is a very difficult question to answer.
I think of myself as a 'libertarian' - but even resort to first principles does not give me the answer. If two gay people want to form a civil partnership - why not? If a 'married' gay couple want to adopt - why not? But then, if a Catholic adoption agency cannot accept that it must place a child in its care with a gay couple because of deeply held religious beliefs - why not again? Are we facing State intolerance or religious intolerance? Does the State have the power to pass laws that take no account of conscience. Would the British State make the same demands of a Muslim-run adoption agency? So many questions to be answered before I can answer one constituent's query.
In my youth I was not tolerant of homosexuality. But I have changed my opinion and today, I consider same sex relationships to be wholly acceptable - and generally, should not be discriminated against. I use the word 'generally' because, after much soul searching, I come down on the side of the Catholic Church. I had been leaning towards this answer before reading William Rees-Mogg in today's Mail on Sunday. I wonder whether I will still hold the same opinion in 5 years time?
24 hours later - And now I read reports that my leader, David Cameron has come out against the Catholic Church, while David Davis is reported to be taking the same line as I am. I hope this does not become a 'whipped' issue.