Over the rainbow, are the skies blue? Can the Conservative government deliver on gay rights?

The new cabinet is the least socially representative since the by-gone era of top hats and gentleman’s clubs. Oh wait, I just described the Bullingdon. The least socially representative since before the first world war, to be more precise. Cameron’s cabinet has only four women, one of whom is a minister without portfolio and Baroness Farsi is also the only BME member in the new cabinet. It seems the face of British politics is once again white and male.

Of course, representation does not have to be descriptive, one can advocate for a group without being a member. However I would insist that the person appointed representative believes in gaining rights for that group. Herein lies the problem with the new Minister for Women and Equalities. Theresa May is an inappropriate and frankly dangerous choice for this crucial role. A brief review of her voting record on gay rights demonstrates her evident unsuitability. She opposed the abolition of section 28 (as did most of the front bench). She voted against lowering the homosexual age of consent to 16. She voted against gay adoption rights. She voted against the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill which would give lesbian couples the ability to receive fertility treatment. How can we have an equality minister who doesn’t believe in equal rights?  

How could our new Prime Minister, he of hope and the Big Society appoint her, doing such a disservice to the gay community? Perhaps because his true views are not dissimilar to hers. David Cameron voted against an amendment to the Adoption an Children Bill which allowed unmarried couples (both heterosexual and homosexual) to adopt children. This could be passed off as Victorian Values, upholding the institution of marriage, until he voted for the same amendment, this time specifically worded to exclude homosexual couples. He also voted against gay rights, advocating the need for both a father and mother to be present to gain fertility treatment.

This is disappointing, but not surprising in a party that continues to allow people like Chris Grayling into its inner circle after the B&B fiasco. No, Chris Grayling, ‘I was just recalling (the bigoted, homophobic and appallingly offensive) views I used to have’ is not a good enough excuse. This is also the party whose social policy was largely authored by Phillipa Stroud, who founded a church which attempted to ‘cure’ gay people through prayer. Although she didn’t win her seat, I doubt her influence will decline due to her position at the Centre for Social justice.

Hopefully, this is an area in which LibDem influence will temper the endemic homophobia in the Conservative ranks. Lynne Featherstone has been appointed junior equality minister. She has a positive record on gay rights and is one of few MPs who actively champion trans rights. I just hope she will be heard as she is clearly in the minority.


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