His commitment to equality only stretches so far
‘It is unfair and illogical to deny someone a civil partnership just because they happen to be straight,’ Tory MP Tim Loughton writes in the Telegraph today, criticising this court of appeal morning’s ruling that heterosexual couples are not entitled to civil partnerships.
Like Rebecca Steinfeld and Charles Keidan, Loughton considers this an ‘equality question’ and has been campaigning for straight couples to enjoy this particular form of equality for several years.
But strangely, given his supposed commitment to equal rights, Loughton voted against allowing same-sex couples to marry in 2013.
He also voted against making same sex marriage available to armed forces personnel outside the UK, against the expansion of gay adoption rights and against equalisation of the age of consent. In fact, the only expansion of LGBTQ rights Loughton has ever voted for was — you guessed it — the civil partnership bill.
Indeed, when the question of same-sex marriage arose in 2013, Loughton’s opposition hinged on the fact that civil partnership was already available to same-sex couples and, as such, they were equal in all meaningful senses.
‘I do not claim that my church marriage is superior to another member’s civil partnership,’ he told the House of Commons.
“It is not; it is equal in the eyes of the law and society, just different. Let us get away from the basis that we need things to be the same to be equal. It is not the same thing.”
So why, if civil partnerships and marriage are essentially interchangeable, is Loughton now so concerned that straight couples have access to both options?
There is a dog whistle being blown here. While Steinfeld and Keidan’s case is a reasonable one, Loughton’s argument is simply that if gay people have something, straight people must have it too. That civil partnerships — which only exist because conservatives weren’t willing to extend marriage rights in 2004 — are some kind of LGBTQ privilege.
Loughton also uses the article to explain that ‘civil partnerships are beginning to show evidence of greater stability for same-sex couples, including those who have children through adoption for example.’
In other words, he’s glad that civil partnerships have domesticated gay people, reducing the threat they pose to their adopted children (whom he thinks they shouldn’t have been given in the first place).
The Steinfeld-Keidan case is a reasonable one, and there’s a common-sense appeal of their argument. But their case shouldn’t provide a platform for social conservatives to trumpet their commitment to equality, while insidiously undermining LGBTQ people.
Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow her on TwitterSign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.