The Advertising Standards Authority has been accused of bias after its chairman publicly backed redefining marriage while it investigates adverts from a group supporting the current law on marriage.
Lord Smith of Finsbury, who is a homosexual, has recorded a video for a campaign backing the redefinition of marriage – and said he personally wants to “marry”.
The advertising watchdog, the ASA, has acknowledged that Lord Smith has a “conflict of interest” on the issue, but ignored a call for him to resign.
It is the latest development in a row over Coalition for Marriage (C4M) adverts which appeared on a number of internet sites including the Archbishop Cranmer blog.
View the ad for yourself here.
Responding to Lord Smith’s comments, Colin Hart, the Campaign Director for C4M, said there is a “willingness on the part of the ASA to do its uppermost to clamp down on freedom of speech and debate in this country”.
Mr Hart said the Cranmer blog raises “very important questions” and added: “We should all be very worried about this investigation.”
The advert was subject to a small number of complaints and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) launched an investigation. However it faced criticism over the move, with one group which supports redefining marriage warning of the ASA’s “bullying tone”.
A spokeswoman for the ASA said that there were “robust” processes in place to ensure that the decision on the complaint would be fair and impartial.
She added that the fact that the ad is being investigated does not mean it will fall foul of the rules.
The spokeswoman said: “Our chairman ordinarily does not vote, we have got 13 members of the council and the decisions are taken by them and our chairman does not ordinarily vote unless it is split.
“There is a conflict of interest here so even should the decision have been split he would not vote.”
Over 520,000 people have now signed the Coalition for Marriage petition which opposes any redefinition of marriage. It can be signed at www.c4m.org.uk.