Canada

No free vote on same-sex marriage for NDP

A Manitoba NDP MP says she will not support same-sex marriage.

The leader of the federal New Democrats says his MPs won't be allowed a free vote on same-sex marriage.

The New Democrats wrapped up their caucus retreat on Vancouver Island on Thursday, with at least one MP opposed to the party policy on gay marriage.

Manitoba MP Bev Desjarlais says there's a lot of opposition to gay marriage in her riding of Churchill. And she herself isn't comfortable with the idea of allowing gays and lesbians to get married.

"This hasn't been an overnight decision for me," said Desjarlais. "It's something that I've thought about for a long period of time, that I've talked to people with even before I was a member of parliament."

NDP Leader Jack Layton says he's trying to persuade Desjarlais to fall in line, but NDP MPs won't have a choice on how to vote.

"We have a party policy and it is to support this legislation and that's the way it's going to be," said Layton.

Desjarlais's opinions have put her at odds with her caucus colleagues. Supporters of same-sex marriage, such as B.C. New Democrat Svend Robinson, say there is no room for dissent within caucus on this issue.

"Jack Layton, as the leader, has been crystal clear on this. We're not talking about a free vote on this issue. It's an issue of fundamental equality," said Robinson.

Desjarlais says she won't be forced to vote in favour of something she doesn't believe in.

"Discipline within caucus is a far lesser worry for me than my living with myself over something I believe quite strongly about," said Desjarlais.