Tories try to "placate" equal rights advocates after Grayling incident

By staff writers
April 11, 2010

Equality campaigners say that they remain worried by the Conservative Party's ambiguous stance on gay rights, despite a meeting today (11 April) with the Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne.

The Tories have been under pressure over the issue since the Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling, was recorded saying he thought guest house owners should be allowed to discriminate against same-sex couples.

Tamsin Omond, who is best known as an environmental activist and is a Christian lesbian, told Ekklesia that Osborne was “obviously trying to placate us”. She said that he “couldn't identify one policy” to improve the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) people

The human rights activist, Peter Tatchell, said, “It was positive that they met us but disappointing that they had nothing to tell us”.

The Shadow Chancellor invited Tatchell and Omond to the meeting after they planned a protest and street party outside the Conservative Party's national headquarters. It took place this afternoon, with around 500 people encouraging the Tory leader, David Cameron, to “come out” over his position on gay rights.

During the meeting, Tatchell pressed Osborne on the question of same-sex marriage. The law currently allows civil partnerships for same-sex couples but does not permit the use of the word “marriage”.

“The best he could do on gay marriage was [to] say he would consider it,” reported Tatchell. But he added that this appears to go further than the position of the current government.

A week ago (4 April), the Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Grayling, was secretly taped telling a private meeting, “If it's a question of somebody who's doing a B&B in their own home, that individual should have the right to decide who does and who doesn't come into their own home”. He made clear that he did not think that the same exemption should apply to hotels.

This differs from the Conservative Party's official policy on the issue. Campaigners have been quick to point out that Grayling has not been removed from his position and could well become Home Secretary, and therefore responsible for overseeing law enforcement, if the Tories win the election.

Peter Tatchell suggested that the Grayling incident had “done them [the Conservative Party] a lot of damage”.

Speaking to Ekklesia, Tamsin Omond encouraged Christians to support LGBT people's rights “because of Jesus”. She said that she regarded Christianity as “all about equality”.


Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.