Head of abuse inquiry who said same-sex marriage would lead to ‘immorality’, steps down
The retired judge appointed to chair a child abuse inquiry, and one of the most vocal critics of the government’s decision to legalise same-sex marriage for England and Wales, has stepped down.
Baroness Butler-Sloss was appointed last week by Home Secretary Theresa May to chair an investigatory panel looking into how institutions like the government, the NHS, and the BBC handled allegations of paedophilia.
The government was forced to defend its choice after several politicians and lawyers said the peer was tainted by the fact that her late brother, Sir Michael Havers, was attorney general at the time of the alleged abuses in the 1980s.
Sir Michael faced criticism after he sought to stop Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens from naming in Parliament a top diplomat – Sir Peter Hayman – as a paedophile in the early 1980s.
Lady Butler-Sloss said she was unaware of her brother having any role, as attorney general, in the paedophile controversy in the 1980s.
Of the announcement that she would step down from the inquiry, Downing Street said “it was entirely her decision”, and that it would “take a few days” to appoint a replacement.
Lady Butler-Sloss said she “did not sufficiently consider”, that her family ties may affect her appointment.
The 80-year-old is no stranger to controversy. She said last year that same-sex marriage was a “step too far”.
The peer claimed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act would remove the concept of adultery in divorces of same-sex couples and lead to “immorality”.
Despite her opposition to equal marriage, she maintained that she was not homophobic.
“I have always spoken in favour of same-sex relationships and the rights of homosexual people. This does seem to me a different issue and one which attacks marriage,” she said.
Lady Butler-Sloss admitted that her reservations were partly religious but went far beyond the bounds of Christianity.
She claimed that no additional rights would be given to same-sex couples through the introduction of same-sex marriage, and that ministers should be addressing more important issues.
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“[I cannot understand] why the government is faffing around with gay marriage,” she said.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell questioned the appointment of Lady Butler-Sloss on Wednesday.
He told: “Baroness Butler-Sloss has a mixed record on LGBT rights. While she endorsed most gay law reforms, she opposed others – including same-sex civil marriage.
“She also supported religious exemptions from the law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination in the provision of goods and services.
“I’m not sure that a government inquiry should be headed by a person who lacks a 100% commitment to equality and human rights for all.”
During her time as a judge, Lady Butler-Sloss supported gay adoption, and as an independent peer she supported a Lords amendment to lift the ban on same-sex couples celebrating civil partnerships in religious buildings.