The Conservative Party has once again attempted to reach out to the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered issues) with an equality manifesto that promises to consider the case for civil partnerships to be renamed as civil marriages. It echoes a vague commitment given by shadow chancellor George Osborne to gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell but comes after a string of damaging accusations of homophobia by a number of Conservative candidates.
The equality manifesto with a foreword by shadow equalities minister Theresa May says: “Since the beginning of his leadership, David Cameron has made clear the Conservative Party’s commitment to sexual equality and gay rights – from his first conference speech, in which he proudly confirmed our support for civil partnerships, to his apology for our former stance on Section 28.
“We have supported tackling homophobic bullying and measures to tackle incitement to gay hatred, and we have opened up Conservative candidate selection to people from all backgrounds.
“Whether it’s our strong commitment to supporting marriage and civil partnerships, or our proposals for flexible parental leave which will benefit parents regardless of their sexuality, the modern Conservative Party is committed to a fairer deal for gay people across Britain”
The document formally confirms the Conservative’s “will also consider the case for for changing the law to allow civil partnerships to be called and classified as marriage.” It echoes the response to a question posed by PinkNews readers to Mr Cameron on same-sex marriage equality. Mr Cameron wrote on PinkNews.co.uk: “I want to do everything I can to support commitment and I’m open to changing things further to guarantee equality.”
This makes the Conservatives the only one of the major political parties to raise the prospects of re-classifying civil partnerships to marriage in formal manifesto or policy documents. However, the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg writing for PinkNews.co.uk has pledged his personal support to changing the law. The Green Party similarly support full gay marriage. The Conservative Party’s commitment is rather flakely say critics because they may consider not to change the law, whereas the Greens and the Liberal Democrat leader has given the change their full support.
Support for the Conservative Party has fallen dramatically over the past year from 39% last June to just 9% last month. The fall in support has been blamed on an unsuccessful interview on gay rights given by David Cameron, but also a string of accusations that members of his team are homophobic. The Observer published secretly recorded comments by his shadow home secretary Chris Grayling where he suggested that bed and breakfast owners should have the right to ban gay couples; his shadow defence minister Dr Julian Lewis who said that equalising the age of consent has led to greater levels of HIV; and just last week, PinkNews.co.uk revealed that Philip Lardner, a Scottish Conservative candidate’s official election website stated that homosexuality was not ‘normal’ and that section 28, which bans the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools should not have been repealed. Mr Cameron banned Mr Lardner from the being an official Conservative Party candidate but has taken no action against either Mr Grayling or Dr Lewis. Just yesterday newspapers claimed that Conservative Candidate and Mr Cameron’s own advisor on families, Philippa Stroud ran a church were LGBT people were told to pray and cleanse themselves of demons to get over homosexual urges. Mr Cameron has yet to comment on this latest embarrassment.
The equality document also says a Conservative Government would fight for LGBT rights abroad: “Unfortunately there are still far too many countries around the world that discriminate against gay and lesbian people. We would use our relationships with other countries to push for unequivocal support for gay rights. For example, Shadow Cabinet Minister Nick Herbert will attend the EuroPride rally in Warsaw as part of our commitment to making the case for gay equality in Eastern Europe.
“We would also use our influence in international groups like the Commonwealth to put pressure on countries where gay people are persecuted, such as Uganda, and we would change the rules so that gay people fleeing persecution were granted asylum. At the moment gay asylum seekers are often returned to countries with homophobic regimes and told to keep their sexuality a secret.”
The document repeats the party’s commitment to allow people convicted of historical gay sex offences to have their criminal records cleaned of sexual acts that are now legal. The promise was made in an article for PinkNews.co.uk by David Cameron.