When David Cameron committed the Government to
supporting same-sex marriage some months ago, he declared: ‘I don’t support gay
marriage despite being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I’m a
His argument being that the party should support a
long-term commitment in any relationship. The unexpected policy shift caused
uproar in the Tory Party in Parliament and across the country. Now, a
submission by the Church of England into the Government’s consultation on gay
marriage has warned of an historic division between the Church’s canon law —
that marriage is between a man and a woman — and Parliament.
It suggests the schism could even lead to
‘disestablishment’, a split between the Church and the State, and the removal
of the Queen as Supreme Governor of the Church. Despite the opposition of every
major faith group — notably the Catholic Church — Mr Cameron is arrogantly pressing ahead with an issue which excites his chums
in the metropolitan elite, but which disregards the sentiments of millions of
ordinary people who, as poll after poll has shown, are against it.
Even some of the Prime Minister’s admirers concede
that the policy has less to do with offering equality to the gay community and
more to do with decontaminating the allegedly ‘toxic’ Tory brand. Perhaps the
Prime Minister has calculated that anyone who stands up and argues against his
proposals will be branded a homophobe and a bigot. Well, Mr Cameron, I am a
Conservative and a homosexual, and I oppose gay marriage. Am I a bigot? And
what about Alan Duncan, the first Conservative MP to come out as gay? Mr
Duncan, the International Aid Minister who is in a civil partnership, is
implacably opposed to gay marriage.
So is Dr David Starkey, the celebrated historian,
who is openly gay. The Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, meanwhile, who was the first
Cabinet minister to enter into a civil partnership, is contemptuous of Mr
Cameron’s motive for smashing down centuries of traditional Church teaching in
reference to marriage.
This isn’t a priority for the gay community, which
has already won equal rights with civil partnerships,’ says Bradshaw. ‘This is
pure politics.’ He’s right. It’s yet another sop to the wretched Lib Dems, even
though they number only 57 of the 650 MPs at Westminster.
The introduction of same-sex marriage became a
policy commitment at the Lib Dem conference two years ago, even though there
was no reference to it in their election manifesto, or in their four-page
manifesto written for the gay community only six months earlier. Even gay
rights campaigners are puzzled by the Prime Minister’s conversion to the cause.
Stonewall, a powerful pressure group for gay equality, has not called for gay
marriage. While the organisation — of which I’m proud to be a member — supports
the idea of gay marriage, its priority remains tackling homophobia in schools
after research showed that gay men in the 16-to-24 age group are significantly
more likely to have attempted suicide than other young men. So who — apart from
Mr Cameron — is clamouring for gay marriage to be allowed?
A poll by Catholic Voice of 550 gay men and women
suggested only 40 per cent identified the change in marriage as their priority.
What sort of message does our preoccupation with fringe issues like gay
marriage and Lords reform send to people who are worried about their jobs?’
The Tory Party HQ, I can disclose, has warned the
Prime Minister that this issue has triggered the biggest revolt among
grassroots members since Tory MPs dumped Margaret Thatcher in 1990. Certainly,
the Archbishop of Canterbury has dismissed as worthless the assurances of the
Prime Minister and the Lib Dem Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone —
nicknamed ‘Featherlight’ by her despairing civil servants — that churches will
not be ordered to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies. Ironically, if the
change goes ahead, it could provoke legal challenges from the heterosexual
community. Ministers have ruled out extending civil partnerships, which became
law in December 2005, beyond the gay community. So we gays will enjoy rights
denied to heterosexuals. What an absurd state of affairs.
The truth is that no one has been able to explain to
me the difference between gay marriage and a civil partnership. I have asked
ministers and friends. None has an answer. But I do. We already have gay marriage
— it’s called civil partnership. Why can’t Mr Cameron just leave it there?
This article has been published in the ResPublica Fringe magazine, a collection of articles and essays from our party conference partners.
Andrew Pierce will be speaking at ‘Marriage:
Changing the terms of debate’, a ResPublica public fringe event at Conservative
Party conference: Wednesday 10th October, 10.30am - 11.45am, the ResPublica
Marquee, the ICC Birmingham (secure zone).