Update: 8.30pm, July 20th. John Hemming MP has withdrawn his name from the EDM.
He told PinkNews.co.uk: “I would like to apologise to the LGBT community for signing this EDM in error. My view has been quite clear in that I do not support a religious free pass for discrimination. It was, however, not clear from the words of the motion that this was what they meant.”
Fourteen MPs – from all main parties – are backing the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s plan to intervene in high-profile court cases where gay rights and Christian beliefs clash.
The EHRC announced last week that it believes more should be done to find “compromises” and “reasonable accommodations” for religious workers who do not wish to serve gay people.
The body has refused to state exactly what these compromises could involve, although PinkNews.co.uk understands Christian registrars could be permitted to swap shifts to avoid officiating at civil partnerships.
This week, an early day motion introduced in parliament by Conservative MP Gary Streeter said the EHRC’s move was “long overdue”.
It says: “[T]his House welcomes the decision of the Equality and Human Rights Commission to intervene in support of four cases involving discrimination against Christians that are presently with the European Court of Human Rights; notes that this is a long overdue recognition of the need to defend religious liberty and marks an important development in relation to a better understanding of the role of faith in public life; and further welcomes the commission’s advocacy for reasonable accommodation in the workplace as an acknowledgement of the place of conscientious objection for those with religious belief.”
Early day motions are bills designed to draw attention to a matter. They do not require parliament to take further action.
Of the 14 MPs who signed the motion, six are Labour, three are Conservative, two are Liberal Democrat, two are Democratic Unionist and one is from the Social Democratic and Labour party. (See end of story for list)
The EHRC has been strongly criticised by gay rights campaigners for its proposal, although it says the rights of gays and lesbians will not be diminished.
Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill said last week he was “deeply disturbed” by the EHRC’s move and suggested that officials had made the announcement without consulting board members.
Peter Tatchell has also criticised the EHRC, calling the decision “shocking”.
He said: “It is utterly appalling that the body established to challenge discrimination is now arguing that people of faith ought to have some degree of exemption from the equality laws.
“The EHRC is, in effect, condoning discrimination by religious adherents. By taking up these particular cases, it is endorsing the view that believers should have the right to refuse to provide public services to people whose views or lifestyles they disapprove of, including apparently lesbians and gay men, and presumably also women and people of other faiths or no faith.”
MPs who have signed the EDM, to date:
Benton, Joe. Labour Party, Bootle.
Bottomley, Peter. Conservative Party, Worthing West.
Coffey, Therese. Conservative Party, Suffolk Coastal.
Crausby, David. Labour Party, Bolton North East.
Dobbin, Jim. Labour Party, Heywood and Middleton.
Donaldson, Jeffrey. Democratic Unionist Party, Lagan Valley.
Durkan, Mark. Social Democratic and Labour Party, Foyle.
Glindon, Mary. Labour Party, North Tyneside.
Hancock, Mike. Liberal Democrats, Portsmouth South.
Hemming, John. Liberal Democrats, Birmingham Yardley.
Meale, Alan. Labour Party, Mansfield.
Shannon, Jim. Democratic Unionist Party, Strangford.
Sheridan, Jim. Labour Party, Paisley and Renfrewshire North.
Streeter, Gary. Conservative Party, South West Devon.