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Ann Widdecombe comes to Tim Farron’s defence on gay sex views

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has found an unlikely ally in anti-gay politician Ann Widdecombe.

The former Conservative MP has come to the defence of Mr Farron, following a row over whether he believes homosexuality is sinful.

In an interview on Channel 4 News, he refused to clarify whether or not he believed homosexuality was a sin, on the fourth occasion of the news programme asking.

Asked what she thought of Tim Farron’s failure to confirm whether he thought homosexuality was a sin, Ms Widdecombe claimed homosexuality and prejudice was not a big issue.

She told Good Morning Britain: “All I can say to that is there’s a war in Syria, starvation in East Africa, a Brexit negotiation, an economy to get going, an education to pick up off the floor and an NHS to sort out, and if you’re really worried about homosexuality in the middle of all of that, then I would say there’s a lack of proportion there,” she stated.

Hosts Piers Morgan and Susaana Reid disputed her claims, saying: “There’s gay people being persecuted all around the world. And discrimination is persistently an issue for people who are gay.”

Ann replied: “Well I don’t think you’ll find it is the fundamental issue during this election.

“Obviously discrimination and social comfort are important issues, but I wouldn’t say that one you’ve homed in on will be the dominating factor in this election.”

In her strongest defence of the Lib Dem’s position, she said: “For Tim to say he won’t be sidelined on that is a perfectly respectable position to take.

“Whether it’s one I would take I don’t know, but it’s perfectly respectable.”

Tim Farron had been due to appear on this morning’s edition of the programme, but pulled out at the last minute citing “scheduling issues”.

Piers Morgan laid into the political leader, telling viewers: “He was supposed to appear on this show today, he claimed he pulled out over ‘scheduling issues’, I think he pulled out over questioning issues.

“If he’s declined to comment then it suggests that he thinks homosexuality is a sin,” fumed Morgan, 54.

“Come on Mr. Farron, you’re a good guy, we like you, you’ve got to come clean about this.

“I don’t think you can keep saying being gay is a sin.”

He added: “If Theresa May says homosexuality is a sin she would have to resign.”

Unlike previous Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who fiercely championed LGBT rights, Mr Farron rose to the position with a poor voting history on the issue – though he has become an outspoken and consistent supporter of equal rights since becoming party leader.

The evangelical Christian MP has come under some scrutiny for his religious views – and during a Channel 4 interview in 2015, he refused to answer three times when asked if he thinks gay sex is a sin.

In an interview with Channel 4, anchor Cathy Newman challenged him: “A while back I asked you whether it was true that you believed homosexuality was a sin, and you struggled to answer. Now you’ve had a while to consider that question, what is the answer?”

The Lib Dem leader insisted: “I don’t think I struggled to answer, I talked about how I’m not in a position to be making theological pronouncements. I can promise you one thing, over the next six weeks I’m not going to spend my time talking theology or making pronouncements.

“As a liberal, I’m passionate about equality – about equal marriage, about equal rights for LGBT people, fighting not just for LGBT rights in this country but overseas.

“Just because I’m a Christian, it would be a bit boring for everybody if over the next six weeks I’m being asked to make theological pronouncements. I am not planning to do so.”

Defenders of Mr Farron pointed to his enthusiastic support for LGBT causes since becoming leader as taking precedence over his personal views, however.

Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Featherstone, the architect of the country’s equal marriage law, fired back: “Turn your attack on those religions that make their followers choose between their sexuality and their faith. Tim is solid on lgbt rights”

Mr Farron previously spoke candidly about his mixed voting record on equality legislation in a PinkNews interview, saying that he “regrets anything that gives people the wrong impression”.

Since becoming Lib Dem leader, he has been a consistent progressive campaigner on LGBT issues, including being the first party leader to speak out over the abuse of gay men in Chechnya.

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