LGBT activist and former solider James Wharton has revealed he has quit the Conservative party over Theresa May’s attempts to broker a deal with Northern Ireland’s anti-gay Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).
The author of Out in the Army: My Life as a Gay Soldier accused the Prime Minster of throwing “thousands” of LGBT Conservative party members “under the bus” in her dealings with the extreme right-wing party, which has a long history of opposing LGBT equality and has repeatedly blocked attempts to legalise equal marriage in Northern Ireland.
Wharton, who threw his support behind the Conservative party in a column for Attitude prior to last Thursday’s general election, blamed May’s “alignment of our party with the DUP in order to maintain government” for his decision to leave the party.
Resigning his membership in a letter to Wrexham Conservative Association, which he later shared on social media, he wrote: “As an active LGBT activist, proud of the direction our party has taken since 2010 where LGBT rights are concerned, I’m upset to see Theresa May establish this arrangement with an organisation so vehemently against gay and trans equality.
“This is more than a step in the wrong direction, it’s a significant reversal of what modern conservatism should be about, and smells of days that ought to be behind us, days when we were rightly referred to as the nasty party.
“The DUP is responsible for refusing LGBT people in Northern Ireland the comfort of enjoying equal marriage – the only part of the United Kingdom to do so. Even Sinn Fein oppose this position in the region; the DUP are alone in their dissent for LGBT people.”
The 30-year-old ex-serviceman continued: “The Prime Minister throwing thousands of LGBT party members under the bus like this… is short-sighted, and undermines the what seems like endless task sometimes of convincing sceptical members of the public that we a re not old fashioned and out of touch with the electorate.
“How am I supposed to convince gay and lesbian friends of mine to support a party so in-bed with homophobia, intolerance and discrimination?
“The answer, of course, is that I cannot.”
I’ve cancelled my party membership over the DUP situation. pic.twitter.com/JVl4SBXFpB
— James Wharton (@jameswharton) June 12, 2017
Wharton, who made history when he appeared on the cover of Attitude in 2012 alongside his then-civil partner to call for marriage equality in the UK, called on other LGBT Conservative party members to put pressure on the party to discontinue its relationship with the DUP.
Speaking exclusivity to Attitude, he said: “I would encourage people to do what they feel is right. I’ve spoken with a couple of my gay Tory friends, one of which completely disagrees with me – that’s fine – the other is torn on what he should do.
“All I would say is that the small amount I pay per month, and the occasional bit of activism I do around an election, might have a minimal impact should it not be present in the future, but if 10 people resign memberships in protest, and then 100 people, well, suddenly the party will notice.
“I’m not turning my back on the party forever, I hope, I just can’t support it while it’s doing what it’s doing right now.”