Colleague David Laws brands Tim Farron’s views ‘outdated and frankly offensive’
“As a gay man, I do not wish to be `tolerated’. I wish to be respected for who I am,” the former chief secretary to the Treasury said.
Tim Farron was right to resign as Liberal Democrat leader because of his “fundamentally illiberal and prejudiced views” on gay sex, former Lib Dem minister David Laws has said.
Mr Farron announced he was standing down as leader on Wednesday, saying he had been unable to reconcile his Christian faith with the demands of leading a “progressive, liberal” party.
His decision was hailed as “brave and honourable” by bisexual former deputy leader Sir Simon Hughes.
V brave & honourable words from @timfarron as he plans 2 stand down as leader.Thank u Tim 4 your Christian faith & your liberal politics.— Simon Hughes (@SimonHughes) June 14, 2017
But Mr Laws, who is openly gay, accused the Lib Dem leader of fostering a “dangerous myth” about how people in same-sex relationships should be treated by society.
He said Mr Farron’s views had harmed the Lib Dem election campaign, which saw the party gain just four seats rather than making the hoped-for breakthrough.
Writing for the i newspaper, the former chief secretary to the Treasury said: “You cannot be a leader of a liberal party while holding fundamentally illiberal and prejudiced views which fail to respect our party’s great traditions of promoting equality for all our citizens.
“Many of us have despaired over the last few weeks in seeing all the good work of Liberal Democrats such as Lynne Featherstone, who drove through the equal marriage legislation under the coalition, undermined by Tim’s failure to be able to give direct and liberal responses on his own attitudes to homosexuality.
“A Liberal Democrat election campaign which should have appealed to liberal voters of all ages has been undermined by the outdated opinions and views which Tim clearly holds.”
Mr Farron faced intense criticism during the election campaign for failing to answer questions about his position on homosexuality.
While he made it clear he supported equal marriage and LGBT rights, he initially refused to say whether he thought gay sex was a sin, saying he did not only after days of pressure.
In a statement announcing his resignation, he said his faith had made him a “subject of suspicion” in a way which showed “we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society”.
Tim Farron resigns as Liberal Democrat leader. Full statement: https://t.co/Ap7JgxRzA7— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) June 14, 2017
Mr Laws said the Lib Dem leader had “clearly implied that he views same-sex relationships as wrong, but will as a liberal vote to tolerate people who are in such relationships”.
He added: “As a gay man, I do not wish to be `tolerated’. I wish to be respected for who I am.
“And I want a party leader whose respect for human equality comes before outdated and frankly offensive religious views.”
Former business minister Jo Swinson, who regained her East Dunbartonshire seat from the SNP in the General Election, has been installed as the bookies’ favourite to succeed Mr Farron and become the party’s first female leader.
Thanks to all those who have contacted me urging me to stand. I'm talking to Mary, family, friends & colleagues. Will then make decision— Norman Lamb (@normanlamb) June 15, 2017
Lib Dem health spokesman Norman Lamb and former business secretary Sir Vince Cable have indicated they are considering throwing their hats into the ring for the race to replace Mr Farron.