Cameron’s gay rights credentials questioned

By Ian Dunt

David Cameron’s commitment to gay rights is being brought under the spotlight as the Conservative conference begins in Manchester.

The call could not come at a worse time for the Tory leader, who is busy defending himself against flak from a different front, as eurosceptics pressure him to promise a referendum on the Lisbon treaty.

But today’s criticisms, from prominent gay-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, reveal a still vulnerable side to the Tory leader, who has been keen to clean up the party’s image on gay rights.

“David Cameron is all talk and no action on gay rights,” Mr Tatchell said.

“I challenge him to back up his gay-friendly words with concrete policies to end the remaining vestiges of homophobic discrimination. So far, he has not promised a single new policy for gay equality.”

The Tories reputation on gay issues has still not recovered from the imposition of Section 28, which prohibited the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools. Drawn up in the eighties, the policy caused enormous anger among gay rights campaigners and the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual] community.

“The Conservatives will never be taken seriously as defenders of gay human rights unless they promise concrete policies for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality,” Mr Tatchell said.

“We don’t know what a Tory government would do because David Cameron offers only vague generalities, not policy specifics.

“Mr Cameron has a poor voting record on gay issues. Only last year voted to deny lesbian couples equal access to IVF fertility treatment. In 2003, he voted to retain Section 28.

Gay rights activists want the Tories to commit to repealing the ban on same-sex civil marriage, and the blanket, lifetime prohibition on gay men donating blood.

There have been strong criticisms of the Tories’ decision to align themselves with fringe parties in Europe, many of which are openly homophobic.

Today, Mr Tatchell explicitly called on Mr Cameron to end the alliance.

“Withdraw from the European parliament alliance with the homophobic Polish Law and Justice Party, Dutch Christian Union and Latvian Fatherland and Freedom Party,” Mr Tatchell ordered the Tory leader.

The criticism forms part of a growing chorus of anger over the European move. The Liberal Democrat and Labour conferences were awash with anger at the move earlier in the conference season.