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Labour’s shadow equalities minister Janet Daby resigns over ‘misjudged’ comments on same-sex marriage

Nick Duffy December 7, 2020
Labour shadow minister Janet Daby has resigned from the party's frontbench

Labour shadow minister Janet Daby has resigned from the party's frontbench

Labour shadow minister Janet Daby has resigned from the party’s frontbench after suggesting religious registrars should be permitted to refuse to process same-sex marriages.

The Lewisham East MP had served in Labour’s frontbench team as shadow minister for faiths, women and equalities since Keir Starmer‘s election as Labour leader in April.

Labour shadow minister had suggested ‘conscience’ rights for anti-gay registrars

Speaking at an event on Friday (4 December), Daby appeared to revive arguments settled in the UK more than a decade ago, as she suggested registrars who have a religious objection to gay weddings should have a “conscience” right not to process the unions.

According to The Telegraph, she had said: “There needs to be something in place that protects people of faith as well as those who think the other way. It is an issue of conscience.

“It is like people having a choice who for reasons of conscience cannot participate in conducting an abortion.”

Labour shadow minister Janet Daby has resigned from the party's frontbench
Labour shadow minister Janet Daby has resigned from the party’s frontbench Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The comments are significantly out of step with long-held Labour policies on LGBT+ issues, with the party passing the landmark 2010 Equality Act to outlaw discrimination based on the characteristics of sexual orientation and gender reassignment.

Religious bodies such as churches are already exempt from the law, but the provisions do not allow individuals to discriminate against gay couples on the grounds of their own religious beliefs.

Janet Daby says comments were ‘misjudged’

Daby has since resigned from her post.

She said in a tweet on Monday (7 December): “I’m proud to support same-sex marriages. On Saturday Labour celebrated 15 years of civil partnerships, and all the progress we’ve made since.

“I sincerely apologise for my misjudged comments on Friday, and have decided to resign as shadow faith minister.”

Labour confirmed: “Janet Daby has today stood down from her role as a shadow minister. We will appoint a replacement in due course.”

The LGBT+ Conservatives responded: “Janet Daby MP’s comments regarding same-sex marriage were outdated, outrageous and out of line. We welcome her decision to stand down.”

The only parties to have proposed similar ‘conscience’ measures in recent years are the UK Independence Party and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.

Daby was first elected as an MP in 2018, meaning she does not have a substantive vote record on equalities issues. However, she was among the 383 MPs who voted in favour of extending equal marriage to Northern Ireland last year.

More: Janet Daby, Labour, Labour party

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