Caroline Lucas, the MP for Brighton Pavilion and former leader of the Green Party, has exclusively told PinkNews.co.uk, about her “disappointment” at Green Councillor Christina Summers’ decision to break rank with the party over marriage rights for same-sex couples.
During a Brighton and Hove City Council debate on 19 July, Ms Summers said: “When you touch marriage, you’re touching family, and you’re hitting at the very heart of God, and I have an enormous problem with that”.
When asked about the turn of events at last weekend’s Brighton Pride, Ms Lucas said:
“I was surprised that she chose to vote against it, I knew that she came from a particular Christian background, where for her that was going to be challenging.
“I was hoping very much that she wouldn’t vote against it, I was hoping at the very least she would abstain, and I regret very much that she did vote against it”.
Ms Lucas went on to explain why the matter was now being subjected to an internal investigation:
“Of course there is a tradition of conscience and so forth, but we actually made sure all of our councillors signed a pledge around equalities before they stood to be councillor, and there is a process on-going now within the Green group on [Brighton and Hove] council, which is looking to see how best to address the fact that there is a lot of disappointment for the way [Ms Summers] voted the way she did”.
When asked if Ms Summers should stay within the party, Ms Lucas replied:
“I don’t really want to speak out before the investigation is finished, I don’t think that would be helpful…but I do think that it’s very clear that the Greens have always been in the forefront of LGBT rights, and I think it’s not helpful if our councillors are obviously perceived to vote in a way which is not true to that position”.
Ms Lucas went on to say: “The situation we have found ourselves in is problematic, I want to wait until we hear the outcome of that review that’s going on at the moment, where she [Ms Summers] is able to put her position as well, and I hope we can move forward from then”.
When asked about the ill-feeling and anger towards Ms Summers’ behaviour, the MP said: “I absolutely understand how disappointed and angry people felt,” Ms Lucas agreed they would have been “shocked” too.
She concluded by once against stressing the Green Party’s LGBT credentials, saying:
“I hope [people] will take some reassurance that this has not happened with us just turning a blind eye, there is a process now that’s looking at how that happened.
“And given that we have got that [equalities] pledge in place, for councillors to sign, before they stood to be councillors, I think that does demonstrate that we are not responding to this lightly.
She added: “It is a serious issue, we are treating it seriously, as I said, I don’t want to pre-judge the outcome of that process, but if you look in the round on what the Greens have done on this issue, and what they continue to do, as a group and as a party, I still think absolutely our commitment to LGBT rights is second to none.”
A decision is expected to be taken regarding Councillor Summers’ fate in the coming weeks.