Tuesday 21 July 2015

God, Gays and Lib Dems 1: Why it matters

Tim Farron, the newly elected leader of the Liberal Democrats, is an evangelical Christian. In and of itself, this is not a problem; but Farron appears to believe gay sex is immoral, and that most certainly is.
Appearing on Channel 4 News, Tim Farron was asked three times if he believes homosexual sex is a sin. Three times, he didn't give a direct answer, instead choosing to say "my firm belief is we are all sinners". --- BBC News
In an interview with Pink News, Farron claims to support gay rights such as the equal marriage law, but is somewhat equivocal on the details.

To start with, why should anyone care what the leader of the Liberal Democrats thinks?

The Liberal Democrats and Democratic Unionst Party now have the same number of MPs, at eight apiece. I think the DUP are authentic bigots, far worse than Tim Farron ever will be, but I don't get especially worked up about it. They're repulsive, but they were democratically elected and have a right to participate in Parliament like any other MPs.

I see Farron's leadership of the Lib Dems as a much more serious problem.

The DUP are quite open about representing a narrow, sectarian interest in a small part of the UK, where I don't happen to live. The Lib Dems aspire to be a party of government across the whole UK. Even in their diminished state, they are one of the three parties with MPs in England, Scotland, and Wales. As such, in a sense their leader represents us all.

If there is a solemn national occasion, the leaders of the Conservative and Labour parties will give speeches and lay wreaths on our behalf. Whether I would vote for them or not, I want those leaders to represent me with dignity and respect. The Lib Dems still just about qualify as a major party, so the same applies to them.

If Farron believes homosexuality to be morally wrong, I think that is neither dignified nor respectful. I'll discuss the reasons why in Part 2, but this post gives an indication of my thinking. Simply put, if Farron thinks certain categories of people deserve eternal torment at the behest of a wise and loving deity, I object to being represented by him.

The Lib Dems have historically been champions of gay rights. Having a leader who is, at best, equivocal on the subject is a problem for them. I nailed my colours to the mast last election as a Lib Dem supporter, and I'd still like to see the party recover and do well. Farron's views on gays are a hindrance to doing that.

According to Pink News, 41% of LGBT voters backed the Lib Dems in 2010. In 2015, it was 19%. That was under the leadership of Nick Clegg, and whatever else one says about Clegg, he is a staunch supporter of gay rights. Farron is not well placed to win those voters back; or to secure the support of those like me, who are not gay but take LGBT issues seriously. If we want a party whose commitment to gay rights is unquestioned, the Greens are an an obvious alternative.

It would have been prudent for the Lib Dems to have a more thorough discussion about this before electing Farron leader; but with only eight MPs to choose from, they do not have an abundance of talent. In their traumatised condition, I can see why they chose a leader who had stayed apart from the grubby compromises of their time in government.

Farron does have many good qualities. I have no doubt that in general, he stands for liberal principles I would support and agree with. He comes across as energetic and optimistic, which are attributes his party sorely needs. That said, the question of his attitude towards gays is not going to go away; in Part 2, I will expand on why I find it troublesome.

Update: Part 2 is here: God, Gays and Lib Dems 2: The Lake of Fire

Tim Farron's interview with Channel 4 News:

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