Grant Shapps: What is the new defence secretary’s record on LGBTQ+ rights?

Grant Shapps has become the UK's new defence secretary, but what is his record on LGBTQ+ rights?

Grant Shapps has been named the UK’s new defence secretary as he undertakes his fifth cabinet role in under a year, replacing Ben Wallace. 

Shapps, formerly the secretary of state for energy security and net zero secretary, has replaced Wallace who shared his intention to resign as defence secretary back in July and issued his resignation on Thursday (31 August), saying: “Time for me to invest in the parts of life that I have neglected, and to explore new opportunities.”

Shapps’ revolving door of cabinet positions during the last 12 months have included transport secretary, home secretary and business secretary and energy secretary

Claire Coutinho, previously a junior minister in the Department for Education responsible for children, families and wellbeing, replaces him as energy secretary –  securing her first secretary of state position.  

Shapps, who has been an MP for Welwyn Hatfield since 2005, has a mixed record on LGBTQ+ rights, having missed a number of key votes but equally taken a different approach to questions on trans issues compared to fellow Tory politicians. 

What is Grant Shapps LGBTQ+ record? 

Last year, Shapps pulled out from the Tory leadership race – which Liz Truss went on to win – as he failed to procure 20 Tory backers after a short-lived campaign, and threw his weight behind Rishi Sunak, who would eventually succeed Truss. 

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Shapps announced his run in July 2022 and spoke with Sky News‘ Sophy Ridge, who asked Grant Shapps: “Are trans men men and are trans women women?”

“First of all I should say if there’s a Shapps administration where I’m prime minister, I will not be spending most of my time on these kinds of issues,” he responded. 

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“I think we owe everybody love and respect. People should be able to get on and live their lives. There’s clearly a biological basis on your birth but if people want to … transition gender, that is their choice and they will always have my support for me.

“I think the country is far more interested in things like the cost of living, the bread and butter issues, jobs and the rest of it.”

This viewpoint marked a distinct difference in Shapps’ approach to trans rights to that of other Conservative MPs who were vying for Downing Street, which Ridge described as a “war on woke”.

Shapps, however, said he does not believe the UK needs to get into some “US-style” debate on trans issues as it is “not necessary”.

Back in 2020, Shapps failed to speak out against homophobic and misogynistic remarks made by former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, who had taken on a trade envoy role with the UK government.

At the time, Shapps appeared on Sky News and told presenter Kay Burley that while he doesn’t agree with Abbott’s views, he is “really not interested in what people do in their private lives”. 

Abbott previously made controversial comments about the LGBTQ+ community, describing himself as feeling “threatened” by queer people and later saying: “There is no doubt that [homosexuality] challenges, if you like, orthodox notions of the right order of things”. 

In terms of Shapps’ voting record, he voted in favour of same-sex marriage in 2013 but was absent from a vote in 2019 on extending equal marriage to Northern Ireland. 

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He also failed to cast a vote on making same-sex marriage available to armed forces personnel outside the UK. 

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