Francis Maude, the Minister for the Cabinet Office and a vocal supporter of LGBT rights in the Conservative party, has written ahead of today’s debate on the same-sex marriage bill about how the loss of his gay brother influenced him to support marriage equality.
In a column for the Telegraph he wrote that, although his fiscal views have remained conservative, his stance on social issues has become more liberal since the death of his gay brother from AIDS in 1993 – an event he first spoke to PinkNews.co.uk about in 2006 during his time as Conservative party chairman.
Mr Maude told PinkNews.co.uk: “We’ve [The Conservative party] been seen for a long time as a party which hasn’t been very open to gay people. That’s wrong.” Asked if this was morally wrong, he said: “yes, totally. I feel very strongly about this, I had a brother who was gay and died from AIDS, 12 years ago now.”
In his column today he asked how his support for same-sex marriage should be reconciled with Conservative values and expressed that, for him, it was “a family experience that shaped my outlook.”
“My brother Charles, who was gay, died from Aids in 1993,” he wrote. “Society was a far less accepting place for gay men such as him. I think how much better his life would have been had there been greater acceptance of publicly acknowledged stable same-sex relationships. In the two decades since much has changed. But I think this additional step, of extending marriage to all, is important both symbolically and practically. And it is something which most – though I appreciate not all – gay men and women want.”
Mr Maude goes on to acknowledge that some may condemn that view as “hardly Conservative”.
He responds: “Enabling the recognition of committed relationships is perfectly consistent with the Conservative belief that commitment underpins society. We do not seek to change marriage but to spread it.”
He concluded: “We should look forward to a time when everyone – whatever their sexual orientation – can celebrate their commitment to each other at home, in Britain.”
The same-sex marriage bill will be debated over two days starting today, with its third reading – the final hurdle in the Commons – on Tuesday. If approved, it will go to the House of Lords on Wednesday, where it is expected to face further opposition.