UK Prime Minister David Cameron has told an LGBT Downing Street reception that the churches are on the wrong side of the argument on gay marriage.
The reception yesterday evening (24 July), the hottest day of the British summer so far, was held in the garden of Number 10 Downing Street.
The guests included a number of clergy, including Dean of St Albans Dr Jeffrey John, Britain’s most senior gay cleric, who has said God backs marriage equality despite the Church of England hierarchy opposing it.
Celebrities attending included British gay TV star Russel Tovey and former rugby international turned anti-bullying activist and pin-up Ben Cohen.
Recognizing it has been 40 years since Britain’s first LGBT pride march, Cameron told guests that the coalition government was determined to press ahead with same-sex marriage equality by 2015.
Conservative Cameron insisted that he personally supported the move – hinting that the legislation was not being forced through by Liberal Democrat coalition government colleagues, as some commentators have suggested.
He said: ‘It is worth remembering the journey politics has been on over the last 40 years. I am absolutely determined to follow in that tradition by legislating for gay marriage in this parliament.
‘I make that point not only as someone who believes in equality but someone who believes in marriage. If it is good enough for straight people like me, it is good enough for everyone.’
The legislation proposed in England and Wales would not force religious bodies to marry people if they didn’t want to, though Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, has said he does want faith groups to have the freedom to wed same-sex couples if they wish. Separate legislation proposed in Scotland would also allow faith groups to opt in or out of gay marriage.
Despite this much of the opposition to the move has come from religious leaders.
Cameron said: ‘What I would say to the churches generally is that I run an institution, the Conservative party – as well as running the government – which for many, many years got itself on the wrong side of the [LGBT] argument and effectively locked people out of the supporting it.
‘I think I can make that point to the churches. I passionately believe all institutions need to wake up to the calls for equality and the church shouldn’t be locking out people who are gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender from being a full part of the church.’
The Number 10 garden is next door to the Olympic beach volleyball court which has been set up on Horseguards’ Parade.
Cameron joked to guests that he had been looking forward to watching the beach volleyball tournament but the stand had been put up to high, blocking the view from his bedroom window.