National Secular Society: ‘Religion is more important to Baroness Warsi than gay people’

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The President of the National Secular Society, Terry Sanderson, has criticised the reasons given by Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister Baroness Warsi for abstaining in this summer’s House of Lords vote on the same-sex marriage act for England and Wales.

Speaking to on Friday, Mr Sanderson said: “Lady Warsi seems to be going round the houses to avoid saying what she really means. She is supposed to be Minister for Faith and Communities but appears to think ‘faith’ is far more important than ‘communities’. The protection of religious groups, with their horror of same-sex marriage, is taking precedence over the rights of LGBT people in her book.

“This conflict of interest does not bode well for the fair and equal treatment of gay people in government. Baroness Warsi has put her cards on the table. Religion is more important to her than the human rights of gay people. If that is the case, she should stand down and make way for someone who can at least try to treat everyone equally.”

Baroness Warsi, who is the Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office responsible for human rights and Minister for Faith and Communities, addressed criticism of her LGBT record during a keynote speech this week for Human Rights Day in central London.

She apologised for issuing homophobic leaflets as part of her unsuccessful campaign to become the MP for Dewsbury in 2005.

In her Human Rights Day speech she also admitted that the Conservative Party had been on the “wrong side of history” for previously opposing the extension of LGBT rights.

In July, the Tory peer refused to support the government’s same-sex marriage act for England and Wales at second reading in the House of Lords.

However, Baroness Warsi suggested in January that she was inclined to support the legislation.

She told the Daily Politics: “Providing I can get the legal safeguards, which I have been speaking to (Culture Secretary) Maria Miller about, and providing the faith communities are on the right page, and all of that, I will be voting for gay marriage.”

When asked by why she had abstained in a question and answer session after her speech, Baroness Warsi replied: “I was clear in terms of where my position was on equal marriage. I felt that there were concerns that I had about how faith communities and the right of faith communities to have their beliefs protected. Without kind of undoing the whole debate again, there were a number of exchanges between myself and various other government departments.

“I had reservations about what would be considered to be a… in the same way as the established Church of England… [you have] the head of the established Church and there’s a proper structure [but] there are many religions who don’t have those structures, there are many many religions where you wouldn’t be able to find an authorising body, there are many religious institutions to which you have community centres attached which are part of the religious institution but actually can also be standalone centres. So there were lots of technical issues… I don’t want to reopen the debate you know this is on record and I need to be incredibly careful in terms of what I do say in terms of reopening the debate, but in the end I felt that I was not in a position where I could be satisfied to be able to vote for the bill.”



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