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Here’s where all the Tory PM candidates stand on LGBT rights

Nick Duffy June 30, 2016

The candidates to be Prime Minister have now all declared: but where do they stand on LGBT rights?

Tory leader and PM David Cameron confirmed his plans to resign last week in wake of a vote to leave the European Union.

There have been many twists since, with both the initially-presumed frontrunners – Boris Johnson and George Osborne – ruling themselves out.

With nominations closed, five candidates have come forward: Theresa May, Michael Gove, Stephen Crabb, Liam Fox and Andrea Leadsom.

PinkNews looks at their record on LGBT equality.

Theresa May


Home Secretary Theresa May has a mixed historic record on LGBT rights, though she has become a supporter of equality under David Cameron.

Under Iain Duncan Smith’s leadership, Mrs May obeyed the Tory whip to vote against many early reforms, including an equal age of consent and same-sex adoptions – even when others including George Osborne and Boris Johnson rebelled.

In 2004 under leader Michael Howard, she voted in favour of civil partnerships and under David Cameron’s leadership, it was Mrs May who helped ensure that proposals for equal marriage made it onto the agenda – promising a review ahead of the 2010 election, and in government working alongside Lib Dem Lynne Featherstone to secure Coalition-wide agreement.

Baroness Featherstone, the architect of the equal marriage law, has since said that May’s support was instrumental in convincing the Conservative leadership to agree to the Lib Dem proposal.

But Mrs May has faced criticism on other issues. A review of the treatment of LGBT asylum seekers was carried out by the Home Office in 2014, but the Home Secretary has since been criticised by asylum groups, who say that in some ways conditions have worsened under her tenure.

She also mooted plans to withdraw from the European Convention of Human Rights, which guaranteed some of the UK’s earliest LGBT rights protections. The Home Secretary ditched the “divisive” plan as she launched her leadership bid.

Michael Gove


Justice Secretary Michael Gove, the leading pro-Brexit candidate in the race, has a strong pro-LGBT voting record on equality.

He was one of just 29 Conservative MPs to vote in favour of Labour’s Equality Act in 2007, and was a strong supporter of same-sex marriage.

Delivering a stirring call for equal marriage in 2013, he said: “It’s wrong to say that because of how you love and who you love, you are not entitled to the same rights as others. It’s wrong because inequality is wrong.

“Marriage is not undermined by extending it to gay people – it is reinforced by including everyone equally.”

Before entering politics, the former journalist had reported on the early gay rights movement with one clip from 1993 showing a youthful Mr Gove at the London Gay Pride March.

In the clip he laments: “Many of the men on this march will have broken the law, repeatedly and persistently, by falling in love as teenagers.

“Last year, hopes were raised that the age of consent for homosexuality and heterosexuality would be equalised, but many now fear the government won’t make a move.

“So, what are the chances of the change in the law that makes young gay love a sex crime?”

Stephen Crabb

The leadership hopeful voted against same-sex marriage legislation for England and Wales in 2013, though his running mate for deputy, Sajid Javid, voted in favour. He also rebelled from the Tory leadership to oppose the 2007 Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, which provided protection from discrimination.

Mr Crabb is also known to have ties to the Christian Action Research and Education (CARE), an anti-LGBT evangelical organisation which advocates ‘gay cure’ therapy.

Mr Crabb entered politics as an intern for CARE, and his office has also taken interns from the group — though he has disavowed any ‘gay cure’ links.

In a press conference this week, Mr Crabb said he stood by his vote on equal marriage, and his record is “not an issue” in the election.

Asked whether he harbours anti-LGBT views, he said: “Let’s deal with that one head on: absolutely not.

“We had a debate in the last Parliament about gay marriage, I voted the way I did, but I’m very happy with the outcome.

“That issue is now settled, we move on from it and I’m absolutely committed to doing my bit to create a tolerant, decent society for everybody regardless of their background, regardless of their sexuality.

“That is not an issue in this leadership campaign.”

British Humanists previously branded Mr Crabb “an enemy of reason [who] appears to hold dangerously homophobic opinions”.

Mr Crabb appeared unrepentant in an interview just two months ago, claiming he has “great gay friends” but stood by his vote because he disagreed with “forcing churches to change their core doctrine to comply” with the law — despite explicit religious protections in the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act .

He said last year: “It wasn’t a clear-cut vote for me, but I don’t regret any vote I’ve taken.”

Dr Liam Fox


A die-hard traditional Conservative, Dr Fox has one of the worst voting records on LGBT rights among the candidates running, having never voted in favour of any LGBT legislation during his time in Parliament.

Dr Fox voted strongly against same-sex marriage and gay adoption rights, while he was absent on votes on civil partnerships, the abolition of Section 28, gender recognition, an equal age of consent and the Equality Act.

Ahead of the vote on same-sex marriage in 2013,Fox claimed that the proposals were “absurd” and “divisive”.

The former minister said at the time gay marriage that “smacks of a form of social engineering of which Conservatives should be instinctively wary”.

He told a PinkNews reader at the time: “Proponents of same-sex marriage argue that any change is simply a matter of equal rights. I disagree with them.

“I believe that this argument fails to understand the full complexities of the social issues involved.

“If this were simply an argument about righting a wrong, with no other consequences, it would not be creating so much division.”

He claimed at the time: “It proposes to change the definition of marriage for all, for the perceived benefit of a much smaller number.

“Unlike civil partnerships it is not even clear that there is much demand for the change. I have not heard any of the gay friends that I have clamour for same-sex marriage in the way that they demanded the right for civil partnerships.”

The MP for North Somerset served as Secretary of State for Defence from 2010. He was forced to quit in 2011 over allegations about the nature of his relationship with “close friend” Adam Werritty.

Dr Fox faced an investigation after reports that Mr Werritty had joined him on 19 official overseas trips, and allegations Mr Werritty had improper access to the Ministry of Defence. Fox denied wrongdoing but admitted “errors of judgement” in mixing his professional and personal loyalties.

Andrea Leadsom


The only candidate to have never been in the Cabinet, Ms Leadsom emerged during the EU referendum campaign as a leading voice in the Brexit camp.

A new MP in 2010, Ms Leadsom entered Parliament after the bulk of LGBT rights legislation had already been passed.

She ‘positively abstained’ on equal marriage in 2013, voting both in favour and against citing the views of her constituents.

Ms Leadsom explained to PinkNews at the time she would vote yes to show her support for gay rights, but at the same time she would vote no because she found elements of the law “unacceptable”.

She said: “Having looked carefully at the Government’s consultation and considering the opinion of my constituents I find myself genuinely torn on the debate – I cannot vote against a measure that would mean so much to the minority of homosexual couples for whom marriage is the ultimate recognition for their genuine feelings for each other.

“Yet nor can I vote for a measure that risks centuries of faith based belief in marriage as between a man and a woman, that will upset so many of my constituents and which has not yet won public support.”

Explaining her plans to vote both ways, she said: “This is to reflect my support for the genuine love and commitment of same sex partners, but also to register my protest at the unacceptability of the timing and wording of this legislation, as well as to represent the concerns of so many of my constituents who feel very deeply that this proposal is simply wrong.”

RELATED: 10 things that all Tory leadership candidates should agree on LGBT rights

More: 2016 Leadership Contests, Conservative, Gay, leadership, LGBT, Prime Minister, Tory

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