Lib Dem conference to be asked to approve gay marriage proposal

by Stephen Tall on August 8, 2010

Today’s Independent reports:

The Liberal Democrats are to use their first party conference in government to adopt a radical new policy calling for gay marriage.

The paper points out the tensions such a policy could spark with the socially conservative right-wing among the Tories. However, I’m intrigued by the paper’s suggestions that it also “risks causing deep divisions with … the traditional Methodist wing of the Lib Dems”. As a nonconformist myself (albeit not Methodist), I’d never realised that defined me as being part of a clique within the Lib Dems. Nor that my religious views would prevent me from supporting equal gay rights. Thank goodness for journalists, who seem to understand the Lib Dems better than we do ourselves.

The move to recognise gay marriage was signalled by Nick Clegg at the start of the year, and the party has made no bones about this being seen as a way of differentiating the Lib Dems from the Conservative while the two parties are in coalition:

A Lib Dem source said: “There will undoubtedly be some people that will speak against it, especially from the various religious groups. But this is something that the party as a whole has been calling for. It will be a key issue for us in defining ourselves against the Tories.” …

The gay marriage motion will be voted on immediately before deputy leader Simon Hughes’s keynote speech. He will use it as a sign of the Lib Dems striking a new, distinctive policy agenda on which to fight the next general election. Mr Hughes, who is bisexual, has backed the move and hopes that enshrining it into policy will put pressure on his coalition partners.