Fringe Box



GBC Debate Makes National ‘Pink’ News

Published on: 18 Jul, 2012
Updated on: 18 Jul, 2012

Pink News’ coverage of the GBC Debate

The handling by Guildford Borough Council of a petition supporting gay rights to marry has featured in ‘Pink News’ which claims to be Europe’s largest gay news service. The issue has left LibDem leader Cllr David Goodwin (Friary & St Nicolas) in hot water with his party colleagues.

During the council meeting held on 5th July a petition, signed by 546 people, was presented by Chris Ward, the former LibDem councillor for Onslow Village who had organised an on-line petition proposing that GBC express their support for proposed government changes to same sex marriage. Under council rules any petition that attracts over 500 signatures must be debated and those present in the frequently empty public gallery, all apparently supporters of the petition, assumed that such a debate would take place.

But council and Conservative group leader Tony Rooth (Pilgrims) proposed a motion to effectively prevent any debate before it began. It read: “Whilst the Council recognises the strength of feeling expressed on this subject, it does not consider it appropriate to express a corporate view as a local authority because the issues of same-sex marriage and civil partnerships are a matter of personal conscience for each individual and the Council has no powers or responsibilities relating to the registration of marriages and civil partnerships.”

The motion by Tony Rooth was passed with the support of Cllr Goodwin and all but one of the Conservatives. Most other LibDem and Labour councillors present, plus the solitary Conservative, Monica Juneja, (Burpham), voted against the motion. The Labour party request for a recorded vote was unsupported so it was not possible to verify whether there were any abstentions.

It is reported that David Goodwin did not consult with or obtain the support of his party colleagues before agreeing to second the Conservative leader’s  motion. It is thought likely that this will call into question his leadership of the LibDem group, most of whom seemed to sympathise with the petition.

After the meeting Cllr Gilliam (Lab, Westborough)  stated: “I find it odd and disingenuous that the LibDems who spoke out in favour of Chris Ward’s petition, the very same ones who gave us some pretty passionate speeches and lessons on equality, did not have the guts to stand by their convictions. It stinks of political expediency. The same goes for those who opposed the petition. Why not have where you stand recorded? What are you afraid of?”

Chris Ward was quoted by Pink News as saying: “I was a councillor for four years and they [GBC] don’t like this sort of debate, so I was not optimistic at the beginning.

“But we are not going away – there is a very strong group now and at the very least the council knows it’s a very vocal community that will continue to campaign.”

What do you think? Should the council have taken the opportunity to show support for the government’s proposals or was this an inappropriate subject for a GBC meeting. Please leave a comment below using the ‘Leave a Reply’ feature.

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