Forest MP Swayne shocked by his own comments that public was 'disgusted' by homosexuality
SIR Desmond Swayne has branded comments he made claiming the public “detested” homosexuality as “shocking” – and detailed how has come to oppose that view.
He admitted he held “antediluvian prejudices” when he made the remarks in the House of Commons in 1999 during a debate on lowering the age of consent for gay people.
At the time he said there was a “homosexualist agenda” to make “it easier for that community to grow” but went on to add: “It is unlikely that there will be a large increase in homosexuality.
“Irrespective of the change that we will make to the law today, most people are still profoundly disgusted, and alarmed, by homosexuality. That will provide a powerful incentive to reduce the level of homosexuality.”
Writing on his blog, Sir Desmond said since he had since made a “transformation from extreme social conservative to libertarian”.
That had come about, he explained, when the government presented Parliament with the Sexual Orientation Regulations in 2007, the purpose of which was to prevent the providers of any commercial service from discriminating against a potential client on the basis of their sexuality.
“I call it a transformation not an evolution, because it was sudden,” Sir Desmond explained of his change of heart. “I put my original prejudice down to intellectual laziness. I simply never challenged, or even thought about the views that I held.
“Furthermore, when I received a very large correspondence in support of my position and against the liberalising measures that we were debating, it was so much easier to simply reply by stating that I agreed with them, rather than investing any intellectual effort in the matter.”
The 2007 bill had prompted “a huge lobbying campaign by certain elements of organised religion”, he said, and he received hundreds of letters.
“Most of them contained the same example: A Christian couple running a B&B would be required by regulation to accept as guests a gay couple, notwithstanding the offence to their deeply held religious beliefs.
“In a flash of enlightenment the question occurred to me: what Gospel is it they could possibly have been reading? How on earth could they imagine that, were Our Lord the landlord, that he would have turned the quests away?
“Having made that leap, I then put time and effort into studying the Scriptures. The result of which study I put to use when the controversy arose when the Equal Marriage Bill was before Parliament. I published a number of defences of the Bill from a biblical perspective.
“One of which, entitled Too Much Leviticus, was even written-up in The Guardian in a column by Chris Bryant MP (a former Vicar) and which prompted an attempt by a national evangelical association to reclaim me for the ‘truth’.
“It resulted in a very unpleasant meeting, the only one in which I’ve ever had to ask my guests to leave,” Sir Desmond said, adding it was “easy to forget the virulence and bitterness of the campaign against the Bill”, over which some members of the New Forest West Association resigned.
“I was assured that I was destroying marriage, to which I responded that the marriages to which they were objecting would be occasions of joy and celebration to the participants, their friends and relatives, but wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference to anyone else,” he said.
“Events have proved me right: marriage has survived and, I believe, it has been strengthened.”
Sir Desmond cited other examples of politicians changing their mind, including former Commons speaker John Bercow.
“Many of my colleagues derided him for it, but – though I still disagree with him about almost everything – I rather respect him for it,” the Tory backbencher added.
The post came after Liberal Democrat district councillor Jack Davies said he was “shocked” and highlighted his comments because February is LBQT+ History Month and aims to educate people on the history of the persecution faced by people who identify as such.
“In the end, I think it’s necessary to make people aware, who did not have to go through that kind of persecution, just how visceral the hatred was for LGBT+ people from some sections of society – and fairly recently too,” Cllr Davies added.