Tuesday 23 March 2010

Does David Cameron still oppose Waheed Alli's amendment on civil partnerships?

Channel 4 News tonight ran clips of an interview with Gay Times, in which David Cameron seemed badly underbriefed, and hence somewhat tetchy and confused.

Gay Times was surely bound to ask him about a range of issues relating to both his MEPs' voting record, and the approach of some of their new allies to gay rights.

Cameron today told Cathy Newman that the Tory absention on the 'Lithuanian section 28' was simply because they always abstain on issues about domestic issues in member states. However, as Newman reported, that is not the case, citing a recent vote on Italian media freedom.

Another issue raised in the interview was the Waheed Alli amendment on civil partnerships,covered extensively here on Next Left. In an earlier post, Next Left ran a letter from David Cameron to a constituent who asked him if his party would back the amendment.

Cameron expressed his personal opposition to the measure, while couching his opposition in terms which sought to avoid offending anybody on any side of the issue.

As with his laissez-faire approach to his MEPs' voting on gay rights, Cameron again suggested he could not be expected to influence Conservatives in another place.

As the amendment in question was debated in the House of Lords, I was unable to exert any direct influence over this issue.

But Cameron also expressed his personal preference against the amendment and in favour of the status quo ...

"I think it best for the current arrangements to continue"

... though, he did not give any reason against the change, and suggested he would not rule out some change at some future time.

Perhaps this is "progressive Conservative" according to St Augustine: 'Lord, make me progressive ... but not yet'.

However, this correspondence was before the Lords voted for the reform by 95 votes to 21, after an effective advocacy involving people from a range of different faith groups and none.

The government is now in favour of the measure. The Conservatives could now enable to pass in the wash-up, and there would surely be a clear Commons majority for it.

David, the ball really is back in your court.

This was the text of the Cameron letter to his constituent.

'Thank you for writing to me about civil partnerships in religious buildings.

'I appreciate that many people share your strong feeling about the issue. There are genuinely-held concerns on both sides of the debate, so I am very grateful to you for sharing your thoughts with me. As the amendment in question was debated in the House of Lords, I was unable to exert any direct influence over this issue.

'When civil partnerships were first introduced it was intended that they would be treated in the same way as civil marriages, which are also not allowed to take place on religious premises or include religious aspects in a marriage ceremony.

'However I know that many people in civil partnerships would like to change the current arrangements so that civil partnership ceremonies can take place on religious premises, or can at least include some religious aspects in the ceremony. I understand these concerns and I do not rule out changes in the future, but for the moment I think it best for the current arrangements to continue.

'Thank you for taking the time to write to me.'

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