Tim Farron has said he does not think homosexuality as a “sin”, having earlier caused an uproar when he failed to clarify his views.
The Lib Dem leader, who is a Christian, would not give Channel 4 News a clear answer on the issue on Tuesday evening, triggering a wave of anger from progressives - the people Farron is trying to convince to vote for his party in June’s snap election.
Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, Farron was bombarded with heckles by other MPs as he tried to make the case for voting for the Lib Dems.
Former deputy speaker Nigel Evans, who is gay, rose and asked: “Does the Honourable Gentleman think being gay is a sin?”
“So, I do not. So, I do not,” Farron said. “I am very proud to have gone through the lobby behind the Honourable Gentleman under the Coalition Government where the Liberal Democrats introduced gay marriage, equal marriage and, indeed, did not go as far as it should in terms of recognising transgender rights.”
Farron continued: “There’s much more to be done. If we campaign in this election for an open, united and tolerant society, then we need to make sure we are not complacent in any way about LGBT rights.”
His answer in parliament contrasted with his Channel 4 News interview where he repeatedly dodged the question by presenter Cathy Newman.
She reminded him he had also failed to give her a clear answer in 2015 when he was first elected leader.
Then, she asked whether he thought gay sex was a sin and he said: “To “understand Christianity is to understand that we are all sinners.”
In the interview on Tuesday, Newman said: “A while back I asked you if you thought that homosexuality was a sin and you struggled to answer.
“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...
“Just because I’m Christian, it would be a bit boring for everybody to spend the next weeks asking me to make theological announcements that I’m not going to make.”
Owen Jones labelled Farron an “absolute disgrace” for not giving his views to Newman.
But many defended him for separating personal views from politics and pointed to his record on campaigning for LGBT rights.
Jennie Rigg, acting chair of the Lib Dems’ LGBT wing, said: “It is as plain as the nose on my face that Tim Farron is no homophobe.”
Blogging on HuffPost UK, she wrote: “I don’t give a fig what Tim Farron’s religious beliefs are. You know why? Because I am a Liberal.
“He could believe the sky is made from Puff the Magic Dragon’s bumfluff, and I wouldn’t care one jot, whit or iota.
“What I do care about, and care deeply about, is how Tim Farron votes in parliament, how he treats people - LGBT+ people in particular - in everyday life.”