ONE of Britain’s most senior politicians has been forced to defend himself against accusations his party’s support for same-sex marriage was less to do with achieving equality and more about political point scoring.

 Nick Clegg, the UK deputy prime minister and leader of the centrist Liberal Democrats party, said he was “disappointed” at claims his party only backed same-sex marriage to provide a policy difference between themselves and their coalition partners in government, the Conservatives.

Same-sex marriage ceremonies will become legal in England and Wales on March 29 after receiving cross-party support.

Speaking to the BBC on Tuesday, Ben Summerskill, the former head of the UK’s leading gay campaign group Stonewall, said: “The sudden adoption of a commitment to equal marriage by the Liberal Democrats was actually quite opportunistic and cynical in the summer of 2010.”

Summerskill said Liberal Democrat MP Evan Davies told him at the time that championing marriage equality “put clear blue water between us and the Tories.” Davies said he was misquoted.

The deputy prime minister’s office dismissed Summerskill’s comments.

“People will be sad and disappointed to see Mr Summerskill trying to divide supporters of LGBT equality,” his office stated.

“Nick Clegg was the first leader of a political party to support marriage equality. He did this before entering government and his words remain on record for all to see.”

The stoush is widely being seen as an attempt by Summerskill to justify Stonewall’s lacklustre record under his stewardship when it came to gay marriage.

Summerskill – who left Stonewall last month – revealed this week that the organisation polled LGBTI people in 2012 and found 10 per cent were against gay marriage, and this was why “we were cautious about our policy position.”

He highlighted that lesbians “feel very strongly that marriage is a 2000-year-old vehicle for the subjugation of women – and they don’t like it at all.”

Australian-born human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “It was very distressing for many of us to witness the reluctance of Stonewall to embrace equal marriage.”

 

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