Gay rights or party politics?

“I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative”.
With those words at a Conservative conference in 2011, David Cameron (remember him?) set Britain on a course towards being a country where marriage would no longer be denied to people based on their sexuality. It might seem natural therefore that, as he steps down as an MP, the LGBT website ‘Pink news’ should name the former Prime Minister as their ‘ally of the year’. Strangely, however, the reaction to his receiving it has been, to say the least, mixed.
Much of the anger comes from people who disagreed ideologically with much of what Mr Cameron believes and policies he enacted during his time in office. However, the fact is they also, overwhelmingly, support the legalisation of gay marriage. That they cannot give somebody from what they might see as the ‘wrong’ party credit for it is unfortunate and symptomatic of the wider lack of understanding many people (left and right) feel for their political opponents.

Furthermore, it is worth remembering that it is Cameron himself, not the Conservative party, which has been given this award. Frankly (and I say this as one of its staunchest supporters) the Conservative party would not have deserved such an award. It was politically brave of Cameron to commit to legislating for equal marriage; his doing so split his own MPs, not to mention party members, down the middle. In these circumstances, the willingness to do what was right rather than politically convenient only strengthens his case as a deserving recipient of Pink news’ award.

Cameron’s decision cemented Britain’s place at the forefront of international commitment to gay and lesbian rights. It can also be viewed as a national, rather than party political, achievement. The extension of the benefits of marriage to all by a Conservative led coalition government followed on from previous Labour governments’ reforms, such as the introduction of civil partnerships. As such, it is particularly disappointing that some cannot put their partisan loyalties aside and applaud the tremendous step forward for our country that such reform represented.

Cameron’s quote which opened this piece highlights another way in which he has succeeded in furthering the cause of LGBT rights. To make a case in favour of gay marriage which is profoundly Conservative, arguing in favour of it in terms of strengthening and extending the institution of marriage as well on the also key grounds of equality I feel helped win over new supporters to the cause of equal marriage, both within the Conservative party and the general public. It also, perhaps, allowed for a same sex marriage bill which enshrined religious liberty within it, juggling the two pillars of a free society that are freedom of religion and equality of opportunity regardless of sexual orientation. For all the above reasons, it is surely difficult to argue that David Cameron was anything other than a deserving recipient of Pink news’ award.

Alex Passingham

(Image courtesy of The Mirror)

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