Page last updated at 21:00 GMT, Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Gay partners could be married, says Lib Dem leader

Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg criticised the record of Conservative leader David cameron

Gay couples should have the right to describe themselves as "married" rather than in a civil partnership, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has said.

He praised Labour's record of introducing civil partnerships and equalising the age of consent, but said more had to be done.

This included reversing the ban on gay men being allowed to give blood, Mr Clegg told Attitude magazine.

He also urged faith schools to set up anti-homophobic bullying policies.

In his interview, Mr Clegg criticised Conservative leader David Cameron, pointing out that he had originally voted against the repeal of Section 28 - which banned local authorities and schools from "promoting" homosexuality - although he has since changed his view.

'Confection'

The comments come after Mr Cameron made a bid to woo Lib Dem voters in his New Year message, insisting the difference between the parties was narrower than before.

But Mr Clegg said: "He's a confection. I don't really know what he believes in. I don't know what his convictions are and the reason is because they keep changing - and they seem to change for convenience.

"So when it mattered, when people went through the lobby to vote on Section 28, his convictions were on the wrong side. Suddenly they've changed and we get an apology."

He added: "The surveys of a lot of the next generation of Conservative MPs show massive residue of indifference at best, prejudice at worst."

Mr Clegg said faith schools must ensure they do not become "asylums of insular religious identity".

"If they're suffering higher rates of homophobic bullying and violence then we need to put serious pressure on them. It needs to be a requirement; it just needs to be a requirement across the piece," he said.

On the subject of gay couples being allowed to describe themselves as "married", he insisted: "If we don't want to discriminate, why do we make differences in language?

"Language is a hugely important signifier of how we segment society and how you seek to create differences between people. Since we don't want to make differences on this and the law has moved a great deal to do that, we should be linguistically the same too."



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