Education Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Nicky Morgan has exclusively spoken to PinkNews about her regret on not voting for same-sex marriage.
In April, when the senior Tory was appointed to attend Cabinet as Minister for Women, many, including PinkNews questioned the decision as she had voted against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act.
Some asked if she was the Minister for ‘some women’ only, given that she opposed the rights of two women to marry each other. The questions increased as she was appointed as a full Cabinet minister as Education Secretary and Minister for Women and Equality in July, responsible for LGBT rights among many other policy areas.
In a keynote interview Mrs Morgan said she “completely” understood why many in the LGBT community were deeply critical of her appointment.
“It was a really difficult issue,” Mrs Morgan said to PinkNews.co.uk on why she couldn’t vote for the marriage act.
“I take it for some people it’s not difficult at all. It was completely obvious, just sort of overdue for many people. But I think that, if we as a country want to talk about tolerance, and respect, I think we all have to understand that there are some things that are obvious for some people, and less-so, or need more explanation – for others.
“I do understand why people would think ‘hang on a second, she’s voted this way on this, which is an important piece of legislation for me, and how is she going to do the job?’
“I think people should judge me by actions and deeds, and not just on the basis of one vote. I think that’s what saddens me. It’s on the basis of one particular vote. People make an assumption about how I must be. I hope people would find me not to be like that at all.”
Asked if she still would vote against same-sex marriage if the vote took place today, Mrs Morgan told PinkNews: “Probably not – as a member of Parliament I am guided by my constituents and I would probably have to find out how they feel. At the end of the day, at the time I had far more – 10 to 1 – writing against.
“People came out on Twitter afterwards saying ‘I wish you had voted for it’, and I ‘thought I wish you had contacted me before’. That would have been very helpful.
“I’ve certainly learnt and I’m learning a huge amount doing this role and as a government we are showing there’s a lot that’s been done but a lot still to do and the thing is working with everybody within the community, stakeholders, sector – on taking forward the issues.”
Mrs Morgan also used her PinkNews interview to announce a ground-breaking £2 million fund to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools. Organisations will be able to bid for grants in order to provide services to schools.
Asked about the importance of the fund, the Minister replied: “We want to find out about projects which work and also to allow people to innovate. So Jo Swinson, who has been working on this as long as she has been minister for women and equalities, launched phase 1 of this work, which is a research project. We’ve now seen the results of that – I think it’s really interesting.”
She added: “So having the fund in order to allow people to bid in to use the best practice, and to spread the initiative across the schools system, and working with young people is really important.
“In these difficult times, we’ve got some money and we are going to put it into the fund.”
Of bullying she said: “I do think it really affects education – I think having seen, or spoken to people locally about the effects of bullying – if it makes a child reluctant to go into school. It can cause mental health issues, and a lack of self-esteem and confidence. But with my education hat on, I don’t want to children or young people to be missing their studies.”