In England, the conservative Tory Party is actively courting the gay vote ahead of the general elections and has tried to appeal to the gay community by speaking out on gay issues and running a number of “openly gay candidates at the next general election.” But convincing voters that they are sincere in their new, more liberal, approach towards social issues has been challenging. Last month, during a recent interview with Gay Times magazine, Tory leader David Cameron struggled to justify the party’s weak voting record on gay issues and now the shadow home secretary, Tory Chris Grayling, was secretly taped “suggesting that people who ran bed and breakfasts in their homes should ‘have the right’ to turn away homosexual couples.”
Responding to a question about his position on civil liberties and extending freedom of speech protections to religious group, Grayling expressed his support for allowing Christian bed and breakfast owners to deny service to gay and lesbian couples:
GRAYLING: I think we need to allow people to have their own consciences. I personally always took the view that, if you look at the case of should a Christian hotel owner have the right to exclude a gay couple from a hotel, I took the view that if it’s a question of somebody who’s doing a B&B in their own home, that individual should have the right to decide who does and who doesn’t come into their own home. If they are running a hotel on the high street, I really don’t think that it is right in this day and age that a gay couple should walk into a hotel and be turned away because they are a gay couple, and I think that is where the dividing line comes.
Grayling’s personal position contradicts the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, “which state that no one should be refused goods or services on the grounds of their sexuality.” “Grayling voted in favour of the regulations, which apply to the provision of ‘accommodation in a hotel, boarding house or similar establishment.’”
David Cameron, who has previously called the party’s more liberal approach to social policy “lasting and irreversible,” has not yet responded to Grayling’s comments.
A poll conducted by Europe’s largest gay news publication, PinkNews.co.uk has found that LGBT support “for the Conservative party has fallen markedly following an interview where party leader David Cameron appeared to falter when questioned about gay rights”:
Last month, 25% of the LGBT community said that they would vote Conservative at the upcoming general election, the same percentage said they’d back the Liberal Democrats and 28% said they’d vote Labour.
This month, just a day before a general election is expected to be called, counting only the votes of those that had taken part in the March poll, 20% of the LGBT community have said that they will back the Conservatives, a fall of 5%.