Comment: David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s shotgun civil partnership is best option for the gay community
In many ways, you should be ecstatic, by no small measure the majority of the LGBT community according to PinkNews.co.uk polls voted for the Liberal Democrats, very few voted Conservative. The electoral system, with its inherent unfairness for a party with widespread but not concentrated support like the Lib Dems was always going to end up with the Liberal Democrats in bed with either Labour or the Conservatives in a hung parliament.
The Liberal Democrats made the right choice in partner no matter how uncomfortable it feels to have a work and pensions secretary (Iain Duncan Smith) who disagreed with equal parental rights for lesbian couples, a Conservative party chairman who once claimed the abolition of section 28 meant children were being “propositioned” for gay relationships (Sayeeda Warsi), or a minister for equality (Theresa May) who has consistently (bar the crucial civil partnership act) voted against gay rights -although she does seem an odd choice. Some might be upset that we have gone from three openly gay cabinet ministers to none.
An alliance with Labour had that party agreed to it would have resulted in an unstable Government and a hasty second general election. Both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats are broke while the Tories would have relied on Lord Ashcroft’s cash.
The Conservatives would likely have won a small majority in a second election and we’d be soon be living in a country where ‘homosceptics’ or ‘homophobic’ MPs would not be forced to sit as they are now around the cabinet table with MPs like Chris Huhne or Nick Clegg and their excellent voting record. David Cameron would have to rely on the votes of those in the right of his party (not the Liberal Democrats) to pass key legislation which may have have led to deals over LGBT rights, or more likely, LGBT issues would slip down the agenda.
If the Liberal Democrats sat on the side and didn’t join a coalition with either party, David Cameron would still have become prime minister of a minority government and likely called a second general election. The outcome would probably have been the same, a small majority for the Conservatives.
In many ways, the civil partnership with the Liberal Democrats may allow David Cameron to lead the progressive, liberal Government he has repeatedly said he wished to form but has perhaps been held back by some of his own colleagues, the old school MPs he inherited. Mr Cameron can be bolder and truer perhaps to his own beliefs with Mr Clegg than without, perhaps finally legalising full same-sex marriage, something Nick Clegg told PinkNews.co.uk he was strongly in favour of. We believe that the Conservative leader will carefully consider the case for same-sex marriage, as his Contract for Equalities promised.
But if Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg really want to lead a progressive, liberal Government they must think carefully about ending the practice of giving a free vote on LGBT equality issues. The rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people must be fought and thought about on the same basis as race, sex or disability. There must be an end to the absurdity of being able to vote on conscience. This new Government must at the very least allow those unfortunate MPs with conscientious objections to gay equality to simply abstain but not vote against the rights of millions of law abiding LGBT citizens.
And what of Labour? They have achieved so much for LGBT rights. Some of its changes were triggered by European court rulings but the overall pattern of changes were huge. An equal age of consent, gays serving in the military, civil partnerships, gay adoption, protection from discrimination in the workplace and in the provision of goods and services, gender recognition, lesbian IVF rights and so much more. They leave with a good record and have been good allies to our community.
But it’s not their time, the leadership election that awaits will be a good opportunity to find out how they can further serve our community.
For now, we might be living in the words of Messrs Cameron and Clegg in an era of “new politics”, so should we give them a chance? Let’s test them and see whether together they can advance our rights and fight for LGBT rights across the world. There’s a good chance that together they might.
But do you agree with our analysis? Tell us in the comments section, it’s all up for debate
More: General Election 2010