Lib Dems attack Tory voting record on gay rights

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Liberal Democrat party has attacked the “shameful” Tory record on voting for gay rights issues.

According to a list compiled by the party of the Conservatives’ voting record on gay rights issues, a quarter of David Cameron’s shadow cabinet has voted against gay rights legislation.

The research looked at issues including Section 28, adoption and the age of consent. It lists the voting records of current Tory MPs who will be standing in this year’s general election.

  • One in six current Tory MPs standing for re-election voted in favour of Section 28 in 1988.
  • A sixth voted against Section 28’s repeal in 2003 including a third of the shadow cabinet. David Cameron, Francis Maude and William Hague were among them.
  • One in ten voted against reducing the age of consent for gay men from 21 to 18 in 1994.
  • Almost one in five voted against the Sexual Offences Amendment Bill in 1999 which reduced the age at which anal sex is legal from 18 to 16. Seven of these, including shadow equality minister Theresa May, are in the shadow cabinet.
  • One in three voted to allow only heterosexual married couples to adopt in 2002, including seven members of the shadow cabinet.
  • One in three voted against the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations in March 2007, which allows the Secretary of State to make regulations defining discrimination and harassment on grounds of sexual orientation. This included 33 – a third – of frontbenchers and four members of the shadow cabinet.
  • Nineteen members of the shadow cabinet joined an attempt to block the Equality Bill which would introduce a single ‘public duty’ requiring all publicly-funded bodies to proactively promote equality.

Of the 31 shadow cabinet members, ten voted at least once against gay equality. One, the shadow Europe minister, Mark Francois, voted against repealing Section 28, allowing gay couples to adopt and 2007’s Sexual Orientation Regulations. He also joined the attempt to block the Equality Bill.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: “The Tory record on supporting gay rights is nothing short of shameful.

“David Cameron cannot pretend a quick apology will make up for the entrenched and often bigoted views of his hand-picked frontbench colleagues.

“David Cameron and the Conservatives like to pretend that they have changed but they remain the same old Tories.

“It’s likely that progress on gay rights would grind to a halt should they win the next election.”

Last week, Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg sought the pink vote with an interview in Attitude magazine, where he proposed tougher action on homophobic bullying in schools.

Cameron has also reached out to the gay community, including civil partnerships in his pledge to reward married couples with tax breaks. Last year, he apologised for Section 28, which banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools.

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