Andy Burnham: I sacrificed relationships in my own family to back LGBT rights
In an exclusive interview, Labour leadership candidate Andy Burnham has revealed his support for LGBT equality damaged his relationship with parts of his own family. He also brands criticism of his record on LGBT rights “hurtful” and “unfair”.
The New Statesman published an article earlier this week claiming that Mr Burnham, who is seeking to succeed Ed Miliband as Labour leader, has “questions to answer” on LGBT equality, citing his vote for an amendment on the ‘need for a father’ in IVF and fertility care, and abstentions on same-sex adoption.
Mr Burnham was in fact on paternity leave at the time of the adoption votes – due to the birth of his daughter.
He told PinkNews: “I found the piece quite hurtful, actually. If you look back over my fourteen years in Parliament, I’ve voted for everything [on LGBT rights].
“I was absent for a vote in 2002 because my daughter was born, it was the day before or the day after. I was on paternity leave.
The MP, who is from a Catholic background, continued: “The reason why I say it’s quite hurtful is because that has put me at odds, I have been repeatedly at odds with the Catholic church for all of my time as an MP. I have always been going against what they were saying, and that is challenging.
“That creates a personal challenge – I’ve been at odds with my own family, and that has been to some personal cost at times in terms of relationships with people.
I don’t say this to elicit any sympathy but a relative of mine died last night who was a councillor on Liverpool city council for many years, and he and I were very close, but the one time we fell out massively was over same-sex marriage, and it was a real fall-out.
“I have caused myself to change my own relationships, not just with the church but with members of my own family, in this cause… and then you get things written like that and it feels deeply unfair and hurtful.”
On the IVF vote, he said: “The law as it is, is right.
“Just to explain – I felt that there is an equality issue at stake in that in any context when you’re thinking about IVF you have to think about the balance of parents with children.
“You have to think about what are the children’s rights? The issue that I had a concern about is actually now dealt with in law – under any form of IVF, any child can actually trace their biological father, so that is completely dealt with.
“I would not seek to change the law, the law as it stands is right. I think looking back, I can understand how the Iain Duncan Smith amendment [was badly interpreted].
“It causes me quite a bit of pain really in terms of things I’ve stood out for and said. I didn’t promote same-sex marriage out of tactical reasons in the 2010 leadership election, I did it because I believed in it.”
“I absolutely wanted to do it… and at the time it was a sort of risky move in that Gordon Brown had just [ruled it out].”
Mr Burnham was the first Labour leadership candidate to confirm his support for same-sex marriage in 2010, just months after Gordon Brown ruled it out in a PinkNews Q&A.
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Addressing the issue, he said that David Cameron was “brave” to push ahead on the issue.
He said: “He deserves credit, Cameron, for pushing forward on equal marriage. I would still say, the reaction was not pleasant from some parts of the Tory party and worse from UKIP. Some cabinet ministers didn’t vote for it, so I think fair play to him – let’s be honest, that was a brave move on his part.
“But has the Tory party grassroots really changed? Well, no.
“Gordon did [rule out same-sex marriage]. I was the first Labour frontbencher to change that and advocate same-sex marriage.
“I think the last Parliament brought a real change and that is a credit to Ed Miliband and the Labour party because we backed it unequivocally, but you can’t not give Cameron credit for that!”