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Where do PM candidates Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom stand on LGBT rights?

Nick Duffy July 8, 2016

Either Theresa May or Andrea Leadsom will be the UK’s next Prime Minister. But what does it mean for LGBT people?

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

As the Conservatives hold a majority in Parliament, the winner of the contest to succeed him- which is decided by Tory MPs and Conservative Party members – will automatically become Prime Minister in September.

Of the five candidates who came forward, the party’s MPs have whittled it down to just two ahead of a vote of the party membership – Home Secretary Theresa May, and pro-Brexit energy minister Andrea Leadsom.

PinkNews looks at their record on LGBT equality.

Theresa May


Home Secretary Theresa May has a mixed historic record on LGBT rights, entering politics as an opponent but becoming 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.

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 strong criticism on other LGBT 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.

In a statement, Mrs May said: “When I launched my campaign for the leadership I set out my belief in building a country that works for everyone. Central to that vision is a commitment to equality, and I will always stand up for the rights of LGBT people.

“I supported Civil Partnerships in 2004, and was proud to sponsor the legislation that introduced full marriage equality in 2013 because I believe marriage should be for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation.

“I didn’t believe the State should perpetuate discrimination and prejudice against LGBT people. That’s why equal marriage was a hugely significant social reform. And it also made a powerful and important statement that as a country we value and respect everyone.

“For me, equality is about fairness. It is simply wrong for anyone to face discrimination or abuse because of who they are or who they love.

“A Conservative Government under my leadership would be unequivocally committed to supporting LGBT people, and continuing the vital task of tackling hate crime, homophobia and transphobia – both in the UK and around the world.

“I firmly believe in an open, inclusive, One Nation agenda of social reform which will change our country for the better. That is what I would offer as Prime Minister.”

Andrea Leadsom


Ms Leadsom emerged during the EU referendum campaign as a leading voice in the Brexit camp – and was a surprise qualifier during the battle among the party’s MPs, edging out Justice Secretary Michael Gove.

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.”

But the candidate has faced even more questions in recent days.

PinkNews reported earlier this week that Ms Leadsom had previously claimed that straight adoptive parents should have priority over gay couples in the adoption process.

Ms Leadsom called for a system that would give heterosexual couples ‘priority’ in the adoption process, writing in a post from 2009: “There’s a truly unbelievable story in the paper today, that a young brother and sister, whose mother is a heroin addict, have been turned down for adoption by their own grandparents, because they are deemed too old, even though neither has yet turned 60.

“If that weren’t enough, the siblings are now to be adopted by two complete strangers against the wishes of the grandparents. Following adoption, they will then be ‘allowed’ 2 visits to their grandchildren each year.

“And as if that weren’t enough, the two strangers are a gay couple, who have been selected ahead of several heterosexual couples.”

In a separate post from 2007 about adoption, Ms Leadsom suggested a ‘points-based’ adoption system that gives preference to “a married man and woman as potential adopters”.

She wrote: “There may be a statistically strong case for preferring a married man and woman as potential adopters, and I would be in favour of a ‘points’ system for potential adopters, that took into account the statistical success rate of their particular profile (e.g. married, divorced, single, gay etc).”

The MP came under fire again yesterday after saying in an interview she “didn’t like” same-sex marriage law – claiming it “harms” Christians.

She said: “I would have preferred for civil partnerships to be available to heterosexual and gay couples, and for marriage to have remained as a Christian service for men and women who wanted to commit in the eyes of God.”

Ms Leadsom continued: “The issue I have is around the consequences, and the very real hurt caused to many Christians who think that marriage in the Church can only be between a man and a woman.

“I think we’ve muddled the terms of marriage, civil partnership, church, registry office… I would have liked that to have been clarified.

She has also faced questions over her links to an evangelical project in Uganda which advocates gay ‘cures’.

RELATED: 10 things that the next Prime Minister should agree on LGBT rights

More: 2016 Leadership Contests, andrea leadsom, Conservative, Gay, Leadsom, LGBT, Sexuality, Tory

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