Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, has said it is ‘utterly ludicrous’ to blame the Coalition government’s plans to allow gay couples an equal right to civil marriage for the Conservative party’s losses at local elections last week.
The Labour MP also warned the government not to back down on its proposals in the face of vocal opposition from some quarters.
Two papers reported last week that marriage equality plans would be put on hold following the government’s local council losses, but a Downing Street source told PinkNews.co.uk the reports were “speculation” about the content of the Queen’s Speech tomorrow, which sets out the government’s legislative agenda.
Yvette Cooper MP, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary and Minister for Women & Equalities, said: “David Cameron must not backtrack on equal marriage.
“The attempt by the Tory Right to blame equal marriage for their election results is utterly ludicrous and reveals instead their deep hostility to equality.
“For the Prime Minister to give in to them would be a betrayal of all those who oppose discrimination. Legislation on equal marriage doesn’t prevent Government prioritising jobs, growth or family finances – it is the Coalition economic policy which is preventing that.
“We should celebrate marriage. Couples who love each other and want to make a long term commitment to each other should be able to get married whatever their gender or sexuality. David Cameron should show some principle and promise equal marriage legislation as soon as possible.”
Liberal Democrat Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone said at the weekend the government had never pledged to include marriage equality in this year’s Queen’s Speech but affirmed its commitment to the proposals. She added that though the economy was the top priority, the Coalition “can multi-task.”.
Writing for PinkNews.co.uk, Ms Cooper had called for such a move saying Labour was “keen for it to be introduced in the Queen’s Speech and legislated for this year. And we will be pressing hard for the Government to go further to support churches and synagogues who want to celebrate same sex marriage too.”
Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan said he had been approached last week by three broadcasters looking for a “drooling Right-wing extremist, preferably homophobic”, though he added that was “not exactly how they put it”, to appear on air questioning whether David Cameron had the “right idea” on marriage equality and Lords reform.
When he said he did not believe the election was affected by those issues, he was told the researcher needed to “have a quick word with [the] editor” and call him back.
He added on his election blog with a note to the Conservatives: “Here are some things which yesterday’s vote wasn’t about: Internet porn; gay marriage; House of Lords reform. There may be perfectly good arguments for and against all these things, but please don’t try to press the results into your existing campaigns on these issues. The one new factor is the rise of UKIP at non-European elections. In general, though, it’s about the economy.”
Conservative MP Nadine Dorries added her voice to those opposing marriage equality, writing: “Gay marriage is a policy which has been pursued by the metro elite gay activists and needs to be put into the same bin. I have yet to meet a gay couple in my constituency or beyond who support it; in fact, the reaction has been quite the opposite. Great Britain and its gay couples don’t live on Canal Street in Manchester, shop in The Lanes in Brighton or socialise at Gaydar in London.
“Gay couples are no different from heterosexual couples and yet this policy transforms them into political agitators who have set themselves against the church and community. The policy is divisive, unpopular with the public, is tearing the Conservative Party apart and will influence absolutely no one in terms of the way they vote in the future.”
Conservative Chancellor George Osborne told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “Nadine Dorries, for the last seven years, I don’t think has agreed with anything either myself, David Cameron, or indeed most Conservatives in the leadership of the party have done.
“She has objected to the modernising of the Conservative party and that is her business, but we’ve got to stay focused on what really matters.”