A group of students has confirmed to Socialist Worker that a leading Tory MP has made remarks against gay equality.
Dr Julian Lewis, Tory MP for New Forest East in Hampshire and shadow defence minister, was invited to Brockenhurst 6th Form College in Hampshire last week as part of a series of election hustings. His comments left some students shocked and angry.
Chris Rawlinson, a student at the college, spoke to Socialist Worker about what took place.
“When it came to the question and answer session, I asked Dr Lewis why he voted against the rights of gays to adopt children, and why he voted against the lowering of the age of consent for homosexuals from 18 to 16.
“I found his answer bizarre. He said that for gay people to be allowed to adopt it would have to be proven that civil partnerships work.
“He then said that he voted against the lowering of the age of consent for the same reason that he is opposed to children as young as 16 or 17 being allowed to join the army. He said that just like joining the army puts your life at risk, gay sex can put your life at risk.
“He added he wasn’t homophobic, and that his wife has a gay friend who regularly comes over to their house!
“I asked how he could compare sex between consenting adults to going to war, and said that heterosexual people were as able to get sexually transmitted diseases as homosexuals.
“He then accused me of glossing over the dangers of HIV.
“I was disgusted – I felt he was implying that just being gay puts your life at risk and that somehow gay relationships are inferior and unstable compared to heterosexual marriage.”
Lawrence, another student questioned Dr Lewis’s arguments saying that research showed that being gay did not make you more open to STDs.
“I couldn’t believe his response,” said Lawrence. “He said that we would need to prove to him that gay people were at the same level of risk as heterosexuals to disease and HIV, and until we proved it to him he would not change his vote.
“I think if an MP is elected and expected to vote on issues like this, then they need to be properly informed.
“We were shocked that an MP would come and address a room of A level students, some of whom are gay and who would be directly affected by what he said, and come out with such comments,” Chris told Socialist Worker.
“Even some of the Conservative supporters said they didn’t agree with him.”
Stonewall, the LGBT lobbying group, has found that almost two thirds of young lesbian, gay and bisexual pupils have experienced homophobic bullying at school.
Gay and lesbian youth are at high risk of suicide and self harm because of the homophobia they experience and their fear of coming out.
Lewis’s views were well-received by one of his opponents. Peter Day, from the right wing UK Independence Party backed his statement to the students.
Day said that “I agree with what he said and for the reasons he said it. I don’t really see it’s a problem. If Cameron wants to get rid of him, we would welcome him with open arms.”
Lewis’s comments came shortly after a controversy sparked by shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling’s suggestion in a private meeting that he backed the right of B&B owners to refuse gay couples.
No gay or lesbian voters should be conned into voting for the Tories.