Tory chiefs accused of whipping members into silence over gay marriage debate
11:38am Thursday 26th July 2012 in News
GAY couples in the Cotswolds claim they are being denied basic human rights after a recent debate about same sex marriage was stifled by district councillors.
The Liberal Democrat opposition on Cotswold District Council had called on all members to pledge support for gay and lesbian couples having the right to marry after the government launched a consultation on the issue.
Lib Dems were outraged that Cotswold MP Geoffrey Clifton Brown had not supported gay marriage through the consultation, claiming around 8,000 gay people in the region were being ignored as a result.
But when CDC leader Cllr Lynden Stowe (Campden-Vale) said Conservative members would not take part in the discussion the public chamber erupted with anger.
Lib Dem leader Cllr Paul Hodgkinson (Churn Valley), addressed the meeting with emotion.
"I will soon celebrate 25 years together with my partner," he said. "We became civil partners in 2006 at the earliest opportunity, but we'd prefer to be married.
"This is a question of equality and everyone like me having the same rights as everybody else."CDC's Lib Dem leader Cllr Paul Hodgkinson
"This is a question of equality and everyone like me having the same rights as everybody else."
Angry shouts from members of the public that Tory councillors had been "whipped" into silence by their leader forced some to speak up.
Chris Epps and Lee Cox, who run Beeches Stores in Cirencester, have been together 12 years.
They attended the meetin especially to hear the debate.
"They have been voted into power by us, so why won't they listen and at least debate the issue," asked Mr Epps. "Those councillors are extremely arrogant."
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Hodgkinson added: "It's an absolute disgrace that the leader of the council won't even contemplate engaging in a debate about fundamental human rights. Some of the comments being made were bigoted.
"After what I saw at the meeting, CDC has really hit rock bottom."