The leader of the Liberal Democrats has told the House of Commons that he does not consider being gay to be a sin, after widespread condemnation on Tuesday when he avoided answering the question.
The Conservative MP Nigel Evans asked Tim Farron: “He was asked one question which he refused to give an answer to and I'd be interested if he could today: Does the honourable member think that being gay is a sin?”
“So I do not,” replied Farron. “I do not.” He went on to outline how “proud” he was to have “gone through the lobby” in the coalition government “where the Liberal Democrats introduced gay marriage”.
Farron, who was not the leader at the time, was absent for the final vote on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act. He also voted against the 2007 Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations, which made it illegal to deny people goods, services, or education on the grounds of sexual orientation.
His remarks will be seen as a welcome clarification after an interview with Channel 4 News yesterday in which reporter Cathy Newman asked him again to say if he considered homosexuality a sin – two years after he did not reply definitively to the same question, but instead asserted, “we're all sinners”.
“A while back I asked you if you thought that homosexuality was a sin and you struggled to answer,” said Newman. “Now you’ve had a while to consider that question, what is the answer?”
Farron replied: “I don’t think I struggled to answer it at all, Cathy. I think I’m not in the position to make theological announcements over the next six weeks. … I’m not going to spend my time talking theology or making pronouncements.”
A spokesperson for Farron also today clarified the leader's position on abortion after he voted to reduce the time limit from 24 to 21 weeks in 2007 and said in an interview with the Salvation Army magazine War Cry that “Abortion is wrong”. The spokesperson said: “Tim supports a woman’s right to an abortion. He will defend the existing law.”
In the Commons on Wednesday, Farron, who is a Christian, said that his party, when sharing power with the Conservatives, “did not go as far as it should have done in terms of recognising transgender rights”.
He added that there was “much more to be done” regarding LGBT issues. In reference to reports earlier this month that authorities in Chechnya have been kidnapping, imprisoning, and murdering gay men, Farron said: “If we campaign in this election, as we will, for an open, tolerant, united society, then we need to make sure we do not in any way be complacent about LGBT rights – not just here but in other parts of the world, in particular what is going on in Chechnya at the moment.”