David Cameron vowed last night to ‘export’ gay marriage around the world including Ghana as he held a party to celebrate the passage of legislation in Britain.
The Prime Minister told a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender reception in Downing Street of his personal pride at legalising gay marriage.
Addressing an audience that included BBC presenter Clare Balding and her partner, the former newsreader Alice Arnold, Mr Cameron boasted that Britain was now ‘the best place to be gay, lesbian or transgender anywhere in Europe’.
But he risked controversy by suggesting that his ministers should now fan out across the globe to spread gay marriage around the world.
‘I’m personally proud of this,’ he said. ‘I think it’s a really good step. I’ve told the Bill team I’m now going to reassign them because, of course, all over the world people would have been watching this and we’ve set something of an example of how to pass good legislation in good time.
‘Many countries are going to want to copy this. I talk about how we’ve got to export more, so I’m going to export the Bill team.
‘I think they can take it around the world.’
Gay marriage was passed by Parliament despite fierce opposition from some Tory MPs and grassroots members, who were angered by the Prime Minister prioritising the issue over economic problems.
But Mr Cameron signalled that he wants to go further in pressing gay rights. He told the gathering: ‘There’s still a lot more work to be done.
‘There’s work to be done talking to our Commonwealth partners about decriminalising homosexuality in various countries.
‘There’s a lot of work to be done on homophobic bullying in schools, which is still a scourge in our country. There’s a lot of work to be done in terms of hate crimes and how we stop and stamp that out in our society.’
The reception was also attended by gay rights campaigners and senior Tories including International Development Minister Alan Duncan and former prisons minister Crispin Blunt.
Miss Balding, who is set to marry Miss Arnold, said: ‘It was great – a very good speech by the Prime Minister. ‘He said that he had delivered on a promise and he was very proud to have done so.’
During the event Mr Cameron, together with his team of ministers behind the legislation, signed a copy of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013.
He said: ‘I think of young children growing up at school, who might be uncertain about their sexuality, knowing that now, in the highest place in the land – in Parliament – we’ve passed this law that says that marriage is for you, whether you’re gay or whether you’re straight. And that is so important to young people growing up.’
But some of his MPs remain angry.
Former defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth said the issue was ‘deeply divisive’ for the party.
He accused the Prime Minister of ‘seeking to extol a fundamental change in society for which he has no mandate’ and which had been rejected by his MPs.