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Tim Farron hits out at ‘slightly creepy’ critics over gay sex row

Nick Duffy September 5, 2017

(Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has said it’s “slightly creepy” that people judged him for refusing to say whether he believed gay sex is sinful.

Mr Farron served as leader of the Liberal Democrats since 2015 until July this year.

His term in office became defined by a protracted row over LGBT rights, as the evangelical Christian leader was repeatedly probed about his beliefs on gay sex.

Mr Farron dodged questions in multiple interviews about whether he believed gay sex is sinful, before telling the BBC under duress that he did not believe it to be so.

In his first post-leadership interview today with ITV, however, he conspicuously failed to repeat the statement.

He said: “You can’t answer those sorts of questions in that kind of way.

“In the end, what matters is people’s equality and rights to be who they are.

“If you choose to live your life in a specific way, as a Christian for example or a Muslim, that is equally important as protecting someone’s right to freedom of their sexuality.

“That is where I think liberalism has got a bit lost in the past few years from all parties… the sense that somehow we don’t just have to fight for eachother’s rights for diversity, somehow we all have to think and be the same.

“That is not liberal, that is not diverse, and there’s something slightly creepy about that.”

Of the height of the row, he admitted: “I felt under enormous pressure to move it on.

“I can tell you that what my record dictates is all that matters. As a non-leader now I’m under no pressure to just say stuff to flour the situation.

“I have fought since I was 16 for LGBT equality, and that’s what you judge somebody on.

“I think in a free and pluralistic society, if people have a personal faith that dictates how they make their choices, that’s something we should equally fight for.”

As leader, Mr Farron declined repeated requests for an interview with PinkNews during the row.

In his leaving speech the leader said he has found it impossible “to live as a committed Christian” while leading a liberal party, referencing repeated questions about his views on homosexuality.

He had said: “The consequences of the focus on my faith is that I have found myself torn between living as a faithful Christian and serving as a political leader.

“A better, wiser person than me may have been able to deal with this more successfully, to have remained faithful to Christ while leading a political party in the current environment.

“To be a political leader – especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 – and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me.”

His resignation was sparked when the party’s Shadow Home Secretary Lord Paddick, who is gay, resigned abruptly citing Mr Farron’s views.

Mr Farron rose to the position of Lib Dem leader with a mixed voting history on the issue – though he became an outspoken and consistent supporter of equal rights since becoming party leader.

Mr Farron led calls against the persecution of gay people in Chechnya, lobbying Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on the issue.

He told PinkNews: “These reports from Chechnya are truly horrifying, and represent an extreme manifestation of increasing homophobic brutality and intolerance in Putin’s Russia.

“The UK government must strongly condemn this disgusting violence, and use every possibly opportunity to raise this with the Russian government, as well as in the UN and other international bodies.”

Through his time in Parliament Mr Farron has lobbied on a number of other LGBT issues, championing transgender equality and criticising the blanket ban on blood donation by men who have sex with men.

He also personally intervened in Parliament to help secure the safety of a transgender woman who has been sent to a man’s prison.

Two out transgender women stood as Lib Dem candidates in June’s election.

Mr Farron previously spoke candidly about his mixed voting record on equality legislation in a PinkNews interview, saying that he “regrets anything that gives people the wrong impression”.

More: Christian, Christianity, Farron, Gay, LGBT, Politics, Religion, tim farron

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