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Chris Bryant slams Tory record on gay rights

Tony Grew February 16, 2009

A government minister has said that the Conservative party “haven’t changed” when it comes to gay rights.

In an interview with Total Politics magazine to be published on Wednesday, Tory leader David Cameron said he supports civil partnerships and claimed the party has made progress on gay equality issues.

“I totally agree that on some of these issues the Conservative party had some work to do,” he said.

“Individually, some of us had some work to do and we needed to do it.

“I am not saying it is done but big progress has been made.”

Today Chris Byrant, the Deputy Leader of the House of Commons and one of a dozen out gay MPs, told

“The Conservatives haven’t changed. For example the entire Tory frontbench, other than Alan Duncan, didn’t support reducing the age of consent for gay people.

“David Cameron leads a party that isn’t interested in protecting the rights Labour has achieved in the last decade. He also failed to support equality legislation himself and opposed the repeal of Section 28.

“He mentions civil partnerships; it was his party that tried to derail them when Labour introduced the bill.

“You only have to ask for the views and records of the rest of David Cameron’s frontbench team to realise that little progress has been made within the Conservative party.

“They are still on the side of the bigots.”

Mr Bryant also attacked Shadow Justice Secretary Dominic Grieve’s support for an amendment to hate crimes legislation.

A Conservative peer managed to attach a clause to the new offence of using threatening language with intent to stir up hatred on grounds of sexual orientation.

The clause says that urging someone to change their sexuality should not count “of itself” as threatening or as intended to stir up hatred.

“Earlier this month in the Commons we had the Conservative justice spokesman, Dominic Grieve, opposing equality measures and continuing to back the bigots and their hatred,” said Mr Bryant.

“This is the same Dominic Grieve who voted against the repeal of Section 28, the Equality Act and the right for unmarried heterosexual and homosexual couples to adopt.”

LGBT Labour co-chair Katie Hanson said that less than a year ago Mr Cameron and his fellow MPs voted to make it harder for lesbians to have children.

“It is insulting for Cameron to claim that “big progress has been made” with the Conservatives’ attitude to gay rights,” she told

“He should realise that standing up for lesbian and gay rights means more than giving fluffy speeches with a vague nod towards equality.

“You have to vote for equality – and the Tories simply don’t.

“On May 20th 2008, 92% of Conservative MPs in the division lobbies – including David Cameron – voted against the Government to try and make it harder for lesbian couples to have children.”

Most of the Shadow Cabinet voted in favour of an amendment that would have retained a requirement on doctors to consider the need for a father when assessing women for IVF treatment.

The government argued that the consideration has been used to disciminate against lesbians and single women, and they defeated the amendment, which was proposed by former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith.

All three main parties gave their MPs a free vote on the issue during the committee stage of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill.

More: England, Wales

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