Conservative Party leader David Cameron appeared to contradict his equalities manifesto last night when he said he was “not planning” to rename civil partnerships as marriage.
Yesterday, shadow equalities minister Theresa May launched an equality manifesto which said the Tories would “consider the case for changing the law to allow civil partnerships to be called and classified as marriage”.
Mr Cameron was asked by Sky News political editor Adam Boulton last night to confirm what the manifesto said.
Mr Boulton said: “And just one final question, it’s been suggested that you would consider renaming or are going to rename civil partnerships as civil marriages for gay people, is that correct?”
Mr Cameron replied: “I am not planning that. I think civil partnerships are an excellent thing because they give gay people the opportunity to form a partnership and have some of the advantages of marriage, I think that is right and I’m very happy to look at how we can take policy forward and I think the debate in the House of Lords about allowing things to happen in churches and all that, that’s a debate we should have but I think where we are at the moment I think has dealt with one of the great unfairnesses and so we should look to the future cautiously about whether we can build on that.”
A Conservative Party spokesman said Mr Cameron’s response did not contradict the equality manifesto and said he had focused on the part of the question which suggested the Tories were definitely going to legalise gay marriage.
The spokesman added: “We’re not planning to rename civil partnerships at the moment. We are considering it. We recognise there is a case to consider but we’re not at that point, there has been no firm decision.”
Civil partnerships give gay couples all the rights of marriage with a few small differences. Currently, ceremonies can have no religious elements, although there are plans to change the law.
A civil partnership is formed when the second of the two parties signs the partnership papers, while a marriage happens when the partners exchange spoken words and sign the register.
Gay equality group Stonewall says that civil partnerships are adequate, although some campaigners such as Peter Tatchell argue that “equal but separate” is not good enough and the word ‘marriage’ carries important connotations.
Although Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has given his support to gay marriage, the document made the Conservatives the only one of the major political parties to raise the prospect of reclassifying civil partnerships to marriage in formal manifesto or policy documents.
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 Mr Cameron.
Mr Cameron’s party has suffered a string of embarrassing headlines in the last month over candidates’ alleged homophobia.
Last month, shadow home secretary Chris Grayling was secretly recorded suggesting that bed and breakfast owners should have the right to ban gay couples, while shadow defence minister Dr Julian Lewis said that equalising the age of consent has led to greater levels of HIV.
Last week, PinkNews.co.uk revealed that Philip Lardner, a Scottish Conservative candidate, stated on his official election website that homosexuality was not ‘normal’ and that Section 28, which banned 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.
At the weekend, newspapers claimed that Conservative Candidate and Mr Cameron’s own advisor on families, Philippa Stroud, ran a church where LGBT people were told to pray and cleanse themselves of demons to get over homosexual urges.