Andrea Leadsom has said she “does not like” gay marriage laws because many Christians wanted it to remain a service for men and women.
The Tory leadership contender stressed that she believes the love of same sex couples is “every bit as valuable” as that of opposite sex couples, and claimed “civil partnerships are called marriage as well”.
Mrs Leadsom, who is battling with Michael Gove to finish second in today’s final ballot of Tory MPs and enter a run-off vote of party members with frontrunner Theresa May, said she did not want the Anglican church to be “forced” to accept gay marriage.
The energy minister abstained in the Commons vote to legalise same sex marriage in 2013.
She told ITV News: “I made very clear at the time I believed that the love of same sex couples is every bit as valuable as that of opposite sex couples, absolutely committed to that.
“But nevertheless my own view actually is that marriage in the Biblical sense is very clearly, for the many, many Christians who wrote to me on this subject, in their opinion can only be between a man and a woman.
“I don’t actually agree with them, I don’t agree with them to be specific.
“But what I do think is I would have preferred for civil partnerships to be available to heterosexual and gay couples and for marriage to have remained as a Christian service that was for men and women who wanted to commit in the eyes of God.”
Mrs Leadsom then claimed she “absolutely” supports gay marriage.
“This is not about do I consider gay couples to be any less worthy of marriage than heterosexual couples, not at all, it’s exactly the same,” she said.
“The issue is one I have around the consequences, the very clear hurt caused to many Christians who felt that marriage in the Church can only be between a man and a woman.
“And I think we’ve muddled the terms of marriage, civil partnership, register office, church, etc.
“I would have liked that to have been clarified so I didn’t really like the legislation, that was the problem, but I absolutely support gay marriage.”
Meanwhile, Mrs Leadsom said she would like to bring back fox hunting to “exterminate” the “vermin” and that she would hold a Commons vote on the issue.
“I would absolutely commit to holding a vote to repeal the hunting ban, I think it’s not proven to be in the interests of animal welfare whatsoever,” she said.
“I live in a constituency that’s quite rural about this and very successful hunts there that are now absolutely abiding by the law as it stands now, but who are very often pointing out to me the consequences of the need to exterminate vermin, which foxes are.
“Actually I do believe we need a proper, licensed regime, that works much better and is much more focused on animal welfare.”
Ms Leadsom has also denied massaging her CV and insisted she has not published her tax return to protect other MPs from pressure.
Mrs Leadsom has faced questions over her 25-year career in the City and in particular claims that she “managed funds” and large teams of employees, and took the step of publishing her employment history on Wednesday.
She admitted she did not manage investment funds but stressed that while working at Invesco Perpeuto and Barclays she managed budgets for developing investment “relationships”.
She told BBC News: “The business itself, whether it’s Invesco Perpeuto or Barclays, it has a budget for what it is spending on developing those relationships, travelling to see those clients, supporting product development, paying the staff in the team.”
Mrs Leadsom went on: “My CV as I’ve presented it are exactly accurate.
“There is nothing to regret, my CV is exactly accurate.
“That I’ve absolutely set out the jobs that I’ve done.
“But, as I say, I missed out my job at the weekend in Sainsbury’s.
“So, you know, I can understand people saying ‘You haven’t done this, you haven’t done that’ but where do you stop?
“I could add all manner of work experience too if that was useful.”
Mrs Leadsom is also under pressure to publish her tax return, a step her rivals Theresa May and Michael Gove have already taken.
She has promised to release it if she makes through tonight’s final ballot of Tory MPs and enters a run-off vote of 150,000 party members but stressed she did not want colleagues to face similar calls.
“This is about protecting my colleagues,” Mrs Leadsom said. “I genuinely think that MPs are subject to often too much pressure to put out every single bit about their private lives.”