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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, July 22, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 30
New UK Prime Minister has mixed record on LGBT rights
Section One
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New UK Prime Minister has mixed record on LGBT rights

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Theresa May, who succeeded David Cameron as Prime Minister of the UK on July 13, has a mixed record on LGBT rights.

Cameron, who resigned after voters rejected his leadership by choosing to leave the European Union, passed his country's marriage equality law in 2013.

In Cameron's last day as prime minister, he was praised on the floor of Parliament as someone who transformed the lives of Gay and Lesbian Britons.

'There are 30,000 gay people in our country who in the last few years have been able to get married,' Deputy Conservative Party Leader William Hague said in a speech.

Cameron himself reminisced about the marriage bill in a statement to reporters:

'I think that is real progress. I'll never forget the day at Number 10 [the prime minister's residence and office] when someone who works very close to the front door said to me 'I'm not that interested in politics, Mr. Cameron, but because of something your lot have done, I'm able to marry the person I love this week.'

'There are many amazing moments in this job, but that was one of my favorites.'

Speaking outside her new residence, 10 Downing Street, after officially taking up the position of prime minister, May also praised Cameron's legacy on issues including same-sex marriage.

'In David Cameron I follow in the footsteps of a great modern prime minister,' May said.

'Under David's leadership the government stabilized the economy, reduced the budget deficit, and helped more people into work than ever before. But David's true legacy is not about the economy, but about social justice.

'From the introduction of same-sex marriage to taking people on low wages out of income tax altogether, David Cameron has led a one-nation government, and it is in that spirit that I also plan to lead.'

May supported marriage equality, and as Cameron's Home Secretary, she worked closely with Liberal Democrat Baroness Lynne Featherstone to draft the law.

Featherstone has affirmed that May's support was instrumental in convincing the Conservative leadership and the cabinet to agree to move forward with the proposal, which resulted in the 2013 Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act.

In her book Equal Ever After, Featherstone called May an 'unsung hero' of the push for marriage. May was also said to be the key player in ensuring that proposals allowed for religious same-sex weddings as well as civil weddings, as the legislation was drafted.

May has faced strong criticism on other LGBT issues, however.

As a newly elected member of Parliament in the post-Thatcher period, May was an opponent of LGBT equality in line with her party's stance. May obeyed Conservative Party instructions to vote against the early reforms introduced by Tony Blair's Labour government, including an equal age of consent and same-sex adoptions.

However, by 2004, May voted in favor of same-sex civil partnerships, the first time she openly backed an LGBT rights measure.

While she was Home Secretary, she was criticized by activists seeking asylum for LGBT refugees, who charged that the situation for LGBT immigrants to the UK got worse under her supervision.

May also floated a plan for the UK to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, the multilateral treaty that - among other provisions - guarantees LGBT rights in many areas. She dropped the plan after she decided to run for prime minister.

May's final challenger, Andrea Leadsom, has an even more objectionable record. Leadsom defied David Cameron to vote against marriage equality.

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