Former Liberal Democrat MP David Laws has slammed Tim Farron over the former party leader’s “illiberal and prejudiced views” on homosexuality.
The former chief secretary to the Treasury has welcomed Mr Farron’s resignation as leader, saying his former colleague’s failure to give “direct and liberal responses” when asked his views on gay relationships during the election campaign had damaged the party’s reputation among its core voters.
Mr Farron, a practising Christian, repeatedly dodged questions about whether he believed homosexuality was a sin during the lead up to last week’s general election.
He resigned as leader of the Liberal Democrats after less than two years in the role on Wednesday (June 14), saying he could not reconcile his Christian faith with serving as leader of a “progressive, liberal” party.
His decision was hailed as “brave and honourable” by bisexual former deputy leader Sir Simon Hughes, but Laws, a former MP for Yeovil who lost his seat in the 2015 election, has accused Farron of propagating the “dangerous myth” that people can claim to respect gay people while simultaneously believing them to be “immoral”.
Writing for iNews, Mr Laws, who is himself gay, 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.
He continued: “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.
Mr Laws, who came out publicly as gay in 2010 after becoming embroiled in the MPs expenses scandal, went on to accuse Mr Farron of putting “outdated and frankly offensive” religious views before “human equality”.
“Tim has propagated the dangerous myth that our society can respect and embrace people in same sex relationships, while believing their activities and character to be in some way immoral,” he said.
“What sort of message of reassurance is that for the bullied gay child in a school in a part of the country that still struggles to recognise and respect homosexuality? “You are doing wrong, but we will tolerate you” isn’t nearly good enough.”
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.”