Tory leader David Cameron unveiled his party’s manifesto for the general election today.
The document does not contain his pledge to strike out the criminal records of men convicted for homosexuality offences, which gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell claimed was proof that the gay-friendly policies are “an afterthought”.
Mr Cameron made the promise to PinkNews.co.uk readers days after shadow home secretary Chris Grayling provoked anger by supporting the rights of bed and breakfast owners to bar gay couples.
However, the convictions promise is not in the document and nor are other commitments on issues such as homophobic bullying.
He unveiled the manifesto earlier today at Battersea Power Station in south London, one day after Labour unveiled theirs.
Unusually in hardback form, it is likely to have been printed some time ago.
Titled An Invitation to Join the Government of Britain, the manifesto contains only one issue which relates specifically to gay people – to include them in the party’s plans to reward marriages and civil partnerships in the tax system.
In a chapter about mending “broken society”, the document says: “Our success will depend not just on the actions we take but on society’s response.
“By promoting equality and tackling discrimination, our policies, like recognising civil partnerships as well as marriage in the tax system and helping disabled people live independently, will give everybody the chance to play their part.
“This way, we can make Britain fairer and safer; a country where opportunity is more equal.”
Under the law, gay couples in civil partnerships are entitled to the same rights and benefits as heterosexual married people.
Writing for PinkNews.co.uk last weekend, Mr Cameron set out four promises of how his party would improve life for gay people if it wins power, although only one is included in the document.
He cited recognising civil partnerships in the tax system, giving gay parents the same flexible parental leave as straight parents, adopting a “zero tolerance” approach to homophobic bullying and quashing convictions for homosexuality.
He also wrote a message to our readers, which said: “I believe heart and soul in equality: the whole idea of prejudice towards people on the basis of their sexuality is quite wrong and that’s why I back civil partnerships, why I told the Tory conference that commitment through marriage was equally valid whether between a man and a woman, a man and a man or a woman and a woman – and it’s why a Conservative government will put new rules in place to tackle homophobia and support gay couples.”
Speaking to PinkNews.co.uk, gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell claimed the gay-friendly policy announcements were “an afterthought”.
He said: “Until just over a week ago, Cameron had no gay rights policies. After we exposed this and announced last Sunday’s big gay flashmob protest, suddenly David Cameron and George Osbourne began announcing a raft of new policies for gay equality. It looked like a knee-jerk reaction to criticism. Many of the new policies are not well-thought out.
“The crackdown on homophobic bullying is to [punish] perpetrators but there is no Tory proposal for better education to stop prejudice in the first place.
The fact that none of the LGBT policies appear in the Conservative election manifesto confirms that they are an afterthought, largely in response to criticism and protest.
“It doesn’t suggest that the new policies are a genuine commitment or that the Conservative leadership was planning to address gay equality.”
Labour’s manifesto, published yesterday, promises that more money will be invested in tackling homophobic bullying in schools if the party is returned to power. It also pledged to give pupils compulsory “high quality” sex education.
As previously announced, the party plans to repeal a ‘free speech’ amendment to laws banning homophobic hatred.
The Liberal Democrats are expected to unveils theirs tomorrow.
During the launch of Mr Cameron’s election campaign today, shadow home secretary Chris Grayling made one of his first public appearances since apologising after suggesting that bed and breakfast owners should be allowed to bar gays.
Although a number of other shadow ministers spoke at the event, Mr Grayling did not.