Gay Marriage: David Burrowes Accuses David Lammy Of 'Playing The Race Card'

Tottenham MP David Lammy
Tottenham MP David Lammy

Conservative David Burrowes accused David Lammy of "playing the race card", after the Labour MP compared the fight for gay marriage to the battle to end slavery.

As the Commons debated the final stages of the gay marriage bill on Tuesday evening, Burrowes hit out at Lammy, the MP for Tottenham, for making the "frankly offensive" claim.

Burrowes, one of the leading anti-gay marriage MPs, said that by "playing the race card" and accusing opponents of same-sex marriage of "being in step with the racists and traffickers of years gone by" Lammy was offending "the majority of the black and minority ethnic communities who are opposed to the bill".

During the debate on gay marriage on Monday, Lammy said just as in the past MPs had moved to change the law to say slavery was wrong, it should do so now to say the ban on gay marriage was wrong. He told MPs that registrars should not be granted the ability to refuse to marry gay couples simply because of their religion.

"This House was split for 20 years on the issue of whether black human beings were human or chattel," he said. "There were Christians in this House who sought to suggest that black human beings were chattel, and that somehow it was a matter of conscience and we should not end the slave trade. That is why this is a noble fight."

David Burrowes said David Lammy 'played the race card'

But Burrowes angrily took exception to the comparison, he said: "How dare the right hon. Gentleman equate the position of Christian Members of Parliament such as me and others with the slave traders."

"What is pernicious is equating hon. Members’ opposition to redefining marriage with previous discrimination on the basis of race. That plays into the hands of those who have accused me and many hon. Members of being homophobic or bigoted simply for standing up for marriage."

Responding to the charge Lammy said there had been "many battles for equality" in the Commons over time and that "the battles against slavery, racism and sexism were noble, and many people outside the House will recognise that the fight for gay rights is one of equality; it is not playing the race card"

In an interview with HuffPost UK in February culture secretary Maria Miller, who piloted the gay marriage bill through the Commons, also said allowing gay marriage was comparable to banning the slave trade.

"Conservative government’s have done things for generations which are progressive, all the way back to the position the party had on the slave trade," she said.

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