One of the issues that the media were keen to talk to UKIP about throughout the build up to the 2013 county elections was that of gay marriage. The background to this issue was that in September 2012 the LibDems had announced at their conference that the government would be bringing forward legislation to legalise marriage between same sex partners. All eyes had then turned to the Conservatives, the larger partner in the Coalition government. David Cameron’s office let it be known that he had personally intervened to ensure that this legislation was to be put before Parliament. There was an immediate fuss.
Opinion polls showed the public was fairly evenly balanced on the issue, though as ever the liberal-left elite in London came out heavily in favour of the issue. It was soon clear that the law would be changed, no matter what the people of Britain actually wanted. When it came to a vote in Parliament, most Tory MPs voted against although most of the ministers voted in favour. The legislation was passed.
The media were interested in UKIP’s view of the matter. I think that most journalists were after some cheap headlines which would portray UKIP as some sort of swivel-eyed homophobes. The truth, as so often, was different.
Our policy was simply stated, and restated, by Nigel Farage “Civil partnerships represent an entirely common sense way of allowing gay men and women in our country to register in a formal way their longterm commitment to one another and to take advantage of various laws relating to, for example, succession and financial planning in the same way as heterosexual couples. ... Gay marriage is an entirely different thing altogether. ... We are quite sure that, whatever the Government's worthy declaration that it proposes no change to the duties of the Church in relation to the estate of marriage, there will, very soon after the introduction of gay civil marriage, be a challenge in first the domestic courts of England and Wales and then in the European Court of Human Rights alleging that the exclusion of gay people from the right to have a religious ceremony of marriage is unlawful discrimination against them on the grounds of their sexual orientation. We believe that, given the current nature of the European Court of Human Rights' attitude to such matters, there is a very strong likelihood that the Court at Strasbourg will agree that it is an unlawful discrimination on those grounds and order the United Kingdom to introduce laws which will force Churches to marry gay people according to their rites, rituals and customs. This is not a burning issue. It is not a matter which animates the daily discourse of our Nation. There is, apart from a small but noisy minority within the gay community, no strong demand for this. This is therefore not vital to the life and well-being of our Nation and, given the risks attendant upon it, should not be proceeded with.”
Journalists had wanted to hear a bigotted rant, so after a while they went away. But the row rumbled on, mostly affecting the Conservative Party. The Tories were split not only in Parliament but in the country. David Cameron had already done much to alienate traditional Conservative supporters, and now he was at it again. The newspapers were soon filled with angry Conservatives denouncing Cameron.
from "The Rise of UKIP" by Bill Etheridge MEP
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