A parliamentary candidate for UKIP has claimed that his party would scrap “politically correct” laws allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians.
Garry Cockrill, the candidate for Southend West, told a hustings on Wednesday that Christians were being discriminated against. He was speaking at a hustings organised by a local church, where he attacked equality legislation.
A UKIP spokesman said this afternoon that Mr Cockrill’s views were not in line with the party’s stance on gay issues.
But he could not clarify whether the party would allow bed and breakfast owners to discriminate against gay couples and a policy document says UKIP would scrap hate speech legislation which is “cynical social engineering”.
According to local website Councilbust.com, which has video footage of the event, Mr Cockrill said: “The Equality Act, the Sexual Orientation Act 2007, have made it possible for lifestyle choices to be placed above religious faith.
“You’ll find that the three major parties are unable to make any ground with this. The Conservatives, as you have seen, have pilloried Chris Grayling for defending the B&B’s right to decide who sleeps under their roof.
“David Cameron is supporting the enforcement of civil partnerships in the church. Mr Clegg wants homosexuality taught as normal and harmless in faith schools, and we all know what the Labour party is doing.
“UKIP have a different policy. We would look at these politically correct laws that prevent people from acting according to their faith.”
“UKIP would get rid of these laws. Christians are being discriminated against.”
Mr Cockrill also implied that families headed by a gay couple were inadequate compared to the “nuclear family”.
He said: “The role of fathers and mothers has been sidelined. Equality laws are actually working against family.
“I would like to see a greater support for families. Let’s support the nuclear family.
“The statistics are overwhelming that children do better in families with one of one father, one mother and children. You just can’t get past that.”
Rachel Charman, who runs the Councilbust website, was present at the meeting.
She said: “As a lesbian and a parent, I found Garry Cockrill’s comments concerning. I find it hard to believe that in this day in age, a parliamentary candidate will publicly claim that laws created to protect LGBT people from discrimination are wrong.
“I also found Mr Cockrill’s implication that heterosexual parents are better than single or same-sex parents upsetting and inaccurate.
“I can categorically say that had I been planning to vote UKIP before the hustings, I definitely would not now.”
A UKIP spokesman told PinkNews.co.uk that although the party does not favour political correctness, it believes in equal rights “across the board”.
However, he could not say whether the party would allow bed and breakfast owners the right to bar gay couples from their homes.
He said: “We’re not a fan of political correctness when it challenges common sense but there is nothing in our manifesto against equality laws.”
“We would abolish the Human Rights Act as it’s been said time and time again that it puts the rights of criminals above the rights of victims. But we do firmly believe in the rights of individuals.
“We wouldn’t reverse civil partnerships or anything like that but we do propose pulling out of the EU, so we would not be subject to European equality laws.”
He added: “[Mr Cockrill's] comments are not in line with the party. We definitely believe in freedom of speech but that goes both ways. This was his personal view which he is entitled to but it is not in line with UKIP policy.
“We believe in equal rights across the board regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation.”
The spokesman added that Mr Cockrill could be sent a copy of UKIP policy to clarify the party’s position.
Mr Cockrill told PinkNews.co.uk that he believed the party’s policy is to repeal hate speech legislation where laws are felt to be “cynical social engineering”. This is contained within a UKIP policy document but is not in the main manifesto.
He said: “I’m happy to stand by my faith and beliefs. I don’t discriminate against anyone but I don’t believe the rights of groups should be forced on others.”