Many of you will know by now that this morning I resigned from my role as Shadow Minister for Faith. I have found this position sincerely rewarding, and have enjoyed every single meeting and event I’ve done with the variety of faith groups we have in our country.
On Friday, I took part in a zoom call for people of faith, some of whom were religious journalists. I was asked a question about whether registrars who disagree with same-sex marriages based on religious beliefs should be granted an exemption from conducting these ceremonies. I wanted to give the issue more consideration due to the complexity of the broad views people of faith hold, but in the moment I gave a response that I do not stand by now.
I did not call for a “conscience clause” to be inserted into the contracts of registrars, however in saying that consideration should be given to the religious views of registrars, I implied support for this measure. I am sincerely sorry for the comments I made, which were completely wrong and do not reflect my views. Throughout my career, in Parliament and before, I have been a vocal advocate for issues of equality, and I sincerely regret misrepresenting the views of myself as well as the Labour Party.
I unequivocally reject the idea that registrars, who perform non-religious ceremonies, should be allowed to make decisions about which weddings they perform according to the sex of the couple. That is unlawful discrimination. Performing same-sex marriages is a requirement of the job, and registrars who do not want to perform them should not be in that job.
I support same-sex marriages both personally and professionally. I am extremely proud of all the progress the Labour Party has achieved in marriage equality and all areas of LGBT equality, and have thoroughly enjoyed working with the LGBT community in Lewisham. I feel honoured to be an MP for the Party that drafted the Equality Act 2010 – a crucial piece of legislation which I spoke in support for at several events this year to mark its anniversary.
I understand the pain that my comments will have caused to LGBT members in my constituency, and offer my unreserved apology. I would like to reassure all of my constituents, especially those in the LGBT community, that I fully stand for LGBT rights.
I took my Shadow role extremely seriously, so it is with great regret that I handed in my resignation to Keir Starmer today. However, I remain committed to championing the voices of the faith community in Parliament, as well as being a consistent advocate for the welfare and equality of all my constituents.
Whilst I hope this message has brought some clarity to my views, I understand that many of you will have been concerned by reports in the media. Please do reach out to me if you would like to speak to me further about this.
With very best wishes,