The anti-equality group, Coalition for Marriage (C4M) and the religious blogger, Archbishop Cranmer, have accused the Advertising Standards Auhtority (ASA) of bias, after its chairman, Lord Chris Smith, recorded and released a video for the @Out4Marriage Campaign, which asks people who support marriage equality to record and disseminate their message on YouTube.
Lord Smith made history as the first openly gay MP and Cabinet Minister, coming out publicly in 1984.
In his Out4Marriage video, he said: “All my life I have fought for the equal rights and equality for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people and it seems to be that marriage is a very simple matter of making sure that we get equality and until we have the right to marry then we are not going to be equal. That’s a very simple proposition.
“We have gained so much over the past ten or fifteen years and civil partnerships were a major step forward but they were not full equality. That’s why I think this is a very important campaign.
“There’s a personal reason too. As a gay man, I’d like to be able to marry too. A civil partnership is great, wonderful but it’s not the whole thing and I’d like to have the choice if I wanted to marry. And that’s why I’m coming Out4Marriage.”
However, given that the ASA is investigating complaints received about adverts produced by C4M, the latter group has accused ASA of bias, and blogger Archbishop Cranmer had called on Lord Smith to resign.
A spokesperson for the ASA dismissed the call for Lord Smith to leave his post, but, in a statement to the Daily Telegraph, admitted that there was a conflict of interest on his part, and therefore would not vote. She also added that the advertisement being investigated did not automatically imply that the complaint would be upheld.
When approached for clarification, the ASA told this publication that when deciding on complaints, it is not normally required for the chairman to vote, and he is called on to vote only when the vote is split down in the middle. In this case, the spokesperson said, as there is the potential for a conflict of interest, Lord Smith would not be voting either way.
The complaints to the ASA were lodged as C4M used in their advertisements both the number of signatures seen on their online petition, and a Catholic Voices poll which suggested up to 70% of Britons might be opposed to marriage equality. Doubts have been cast however both as to the number and validity of signatures on C4M, and the methodology of the Catholic Voices poll, especially as every other poll conducted in the last three years have suggested that a majority of Britons support equal marriage.
Mike Buonaiuto, co-founder of the @Out4Marriage campaign, told PinkNews.co.uk that the campaign was started in order to have people from all walks of life, including politics, entertainment and religion, to record their support for equal marriage. “Lord Smith was one of the first politicians to be open about his sexuality, and his voice is an important addition to the campaign,” Mr Buonaiuto said, adding, “We fully support his right to express his desire for equal marriage, and welcome his contribution to the growing campaign.”