A large number of you have written to me in recent weeks about the Government's proposals on gay marriage and asked me what my view is.
I have had to think long and hard and honestly about this to the best of my ability. Apologies for any delay and thank you all for your input whatever your view.So many of you have written that it is impossible for me to respond to every point everyone has made.
I cannot be certain that I have reached the right conclusions but you will see from what follows that I have tried to be as fair to the various arguments as I can. Do let me know if you can identify any errors in my reasoning as I want to get things as right as I can and avoid prejudice and misunderstanding.
I cannot claim to be an expert on all the issues of sexual morality and legislation though I strongly suspect that the values and principles we apply to our general behaviour and relationships apply in much the same way when we come to sexual behaviour.
As a married, heterosexual father of four, I cannot be said to be free from bias or limitations of perspective and as both a Roman Catholic and Liberal Democrat I obviously bring some baggage with me.
I want to say right at the start that I do not believe I am homophobic and am comfortable with Civil Partnerships legislation and the protection that offers to those in long-standing gay relationships. I have polled many of you by e-mail and the most widespread view in my constituency is support for civil partnerships but not for gay marriage.
I thought at the start that as I struggled over this issue, I would arrive at a position that would antagonise either my church which is solidly (though not exclusively) AGAINST or my party which is solidly (though not exclusively) FOR.
As I put my own ideas in order I realise that I stand a fair chance of antagonising BOTH my church and my party.
It remains to be seen which is the most forgiving/understanding
I will vote against the Bill - against Gay Marriage but not necessarily for all the reasons the churches give but because I think there is a good liberal case against the current legislation.
I was surprised in agonising over this how little I relied on any distinctively religious beliefs to arrive at my conclusion. I think there is a liberal case against the Bill and though it may start from a different point than church or religious teaching, it seems to arrive on the same page and embody similar insights.
My fundamental objection (see below) against the government's proposal is that it achieves none of its objectives and weakens the link between marriage and the family.
As a result it draws government (the state) into a whole, new series of debatable judgements and rulings on sexual, personal and religious behaviour.
Far from being permissive in effect, it could herald the advent of ever more arbitrary prescription as we forget why the state legislates at all in this deeply personal aspect of life.
The full case for my position is rather long and I suspect few will want such a long justification but it does at least demonstrate how seriously I take this issue and how long I have thought about it and the words I choose.
Recognising this I have provided a summary of my argument and those who disagree with what I say there can find a fuller explanation in the bigger document.
John Pugh MP