David Amess, Southend Pride and LBGT rights

One of the pieces I picked up in today’s BBC Radio 4 Today program, reflected on recent studies showing 50% of gay people suffering depression in the past year. They interviewed, Will Young, past winner of “Pop Idol”, who thought the figure was higher and was due a lot with the stigma gay people suffer from wider society. It is one reason why I have sympathy for events like Southend Pride.  My own libertarian instincts says it does not matter what a person’s sexuality is; he / she needs treating with dignity regardless.

A little later I read a piece in today’s Southend Echo: “MP David Amess keeps voting against LGBT rights’: campaigners”. It begins: “A LEADING MP has come under-fire from Southend Pride for his history of voting against Gay rights in Parliament. Recently, Southend West MP Sir David Amess was one of 117 MPs to vote against the Northern Ireland Equal Marriage amendment. At present, gay marriage is not legal in Northern Ireland. Southend Pride insisted Southend’s needs “representatives who stand for all people not just some people”. The organisation also highlighted his voting past.”

I suspect just as Sir David has opposed in the past ‘pro gay’ legislative attempts, his Southend Tory counterpart, James Duddridge, has supported them, but I will need to study the details. From what I know about Sir David’s voting record, it is consistent with his religious views and respect for the people of Northern Ireland to make up their own mind on certain issues. I have seen nothing in his actions to indicate homophobia or ignoring his gay constituents, and his voting against equal marriage in the UK (outside Northern Ireland) is as much to do with his antipathy toward redefining marriage, which is what that legislation sought.

I recall many years ago in the early years of the Blair government, when Tony Blair proudly got up in Parliament and stated he supported Northern Ireland devolvement, David Amess asked what about abortion (still my champagne moment). He has clearly remained consistent when it comes to letting the people decide on matters of conscience. It is not about selling out on his gay constituents, as Southend Pride spokespeople claim, but rather letting the Northern Irish decide on these matters. The guy has his faults, and he hasn’t always got it right politically, but in the twenty years I have known him, he has been a very good constituency MP and has supported many community enterprises serving the more vulnerable members of our society. As I see it, supporting the rights of gay people is a given, but agreeing with “equal marriage” is not, and as far as I can make out Sir David has done nothing wrong.


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