Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has said he doesn’t think homosexuality is sinful, amid a row over his beliefs about gay sex.
A row erupted yesterday when Mr Farron, whose pro-European party is expected to make gains in the UK’s snap June election, was asked whether he thinks gay sex is sinful in a Channel 4 interview.
Mr Farron dodged the question, saying: “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.”
His refusal to answer was met with widespread criticism, including from TV host Sue Perkins, Guardian columnist Owen Jones, and Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan.
The leader was pushed again in the House of Commons today, by out Tory MP Nigel Evans.
Mr Evans said: “A lot of his views will be asked about over the next seven weeks, and he was asked one question which he refused to give an answer to, and I’d be interested if he could today.
“Does he think that being gay is a sin?”
Mr Farron replied: “I do not. I do not.”
He added: “I tell you what, I am very proud to have gone through the lobby behind him in the coalition government where the Liberal Democrats introduced gay marriage, equal marriage, and indeed did not go as far as it should have done in terms of recognising transgender rights.
“However, there is much more to be done, and if we campaign in this election, as we will, for an open, tolerant, united society, then we need to make sure that we do not in any way be complacent about LGBT rights, not just here, but in other parts of the world, in particular what is going on in Chechnya at the moment.”
Mr Evans had asked whether it is a sin to be gay, whereas Channel 4 asked whether it is a sin to have gay sex.
Speaking to Press Association Mr Farron added: “I have never judged anybody, I am massively in favour of people being absolutely free to have the right to love who they love, be who they are, marry who they marry.
“My belief for equality runs through me like a stick of rock and likewise through our party as well. I am a liberal to my fingertips and that especially applies to LGBT rights.”
“As a liberal I believe in human rights, in equality for every single person … and LGBT rights are absolutely central to those human rights I am massively passionate about.”
“You just need to look at my record.”
Unlike Mr Clegg, who fiercely championed LGBT rights, Mr Farron rose to the leadership position with a poor voting history on the issue – but he has become an outspoken and consistent supporter of equal rights since becoming party leader.
Just last week, Mr Farron was leading calls against the persecution of gay people in Chechnya, lobbying Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on the issue.
He told PinkNews: “These reports from Chechnya are truly horrifying, and represent an extreme manifestation of increasing homophobic brutality and intolerance in Putin’s Russia.
“The UK government must strongly condemn this disgusting violence, and use every possibly opportunity to raise this with the Russian government, as well as in the UN and other international bodies.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn did not respond to PinkNews’ request for comment on Chechnya and did not make a public statement.
He also personally intervened in Parliament to help secure the safety of a transgender woman who has been sent to a man’s prison.
Two out transgender women are expected to stand as Lib Dem candidates in June’s election.
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”.
The politician claimed he voted against the Programme Motion on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act, because he was trying to secure more time to discuss trans issues.
Making pledges on LGBT issues going forward, Mr Farron said: “On LGBT+ issues, how do you follow it? I’ll give you three things I’m very keen we do.
“One, when it comes to the equal marriage legislation, I think we really missed a trick on trans issues. On the spousal veto, I think it’s an appalling thing that one person is allowed to block another person’s freedom. We should be making that a priority.
“Secondly, it strikes me as deeply troubling is that there was no regulation of psychotherapists in the UK for quack conversion therapy.
“Thirdly, we’ve got to end the gay blood ban, which is a disgrace. My pledge to you is that my first opposition day bill will be getting rid of the gay blood ban. All of these things need to be based on the science, not on prejudice.”