BOROUGH MP Margot James has hailed last night’s successful gay marriage vote in the Commons as “a step forward for equal rights”.

Ms James, the first openly lesbian woman to become a Conservative MP, gave an impassioned speech in the House of Commons yesterday (Tuesday) on the issue which appears to have divided the Tory party.

Despite opposition to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill – 400 MPs gave their approval after a day-long debate on the issue, while 175 voted against it.

Ms James, who covers the Dudley Wood ward, told the News: “It’s another step forward for the equal rights of gay people. I’m very much in favour of it and voted in support of it.

“I think a lot of people approved of civil partnerships but quite a lot of gay people, especially younger ones, would like to make their relationship a fully committed marriage. This will enable them to do that without compromising religious beliefs.”

The MP said she and her partner - TV stylist Jay Hunt - have no plans to marry.

But she added: “Quite a few people wrote to me and lobbied me to vote for the legislation. I’ve also had a lot of emails to the contrary but it’s in no way in the top ten of issues that people correspond with me about.”

The bill now must be approved by the House of Lords before it can become law.

If approved - all religious organisations would be able to opt to marry same sex couples but the Church of England and the Church in Wales would need to agree to change canon law first. Dudley South MP Chris Kelly was among 35 Tory MPs who did not vote on the issue.