John Bercow MP – a critic of past religious liberty campaigns – has been chosen by his colleagues to be the new Speaker of the House of Commons.
He will have power to choose which MPs are called to speak in the chamber and whether or not particular amendments to Bills are debated.
When campaigning for the role of Speaker he said he was proud of his record on pushing for equality on gender, race, disability, age or sexual orientation. He made no mention of religion.
Mr Bercow actively supports the Government’s current attempt to remove a free speech safeguard from a sexual orientation ‘hate speech’ law.
The safeguard was passed last year by Parliament. It makes clear that criticising homosexual conduct is not, in itself, a crime.
In January he said the free speech amendment is “at best superfluous, and at worst deeply objectionable”.
He added: “Some—although not all—of its supporters would not even know how to spell the word ‘equality’, let alone sign up to it.”
In a 2004 debate on transsexual rights, Edward Leigh MP asked Mr Bercow if he was “really saying that when we are dealing with people who have particularly strong moral or religious views we should override those views not in society as a whole, but in their own private meetings and in their own church?”
The official record shows that Mr Bercow indicated assent.
He also supports forcing faith-based adoption agencies to place children with same-sex couples contrary to their religious ethos.
Several Roman Catholic adoption agencies have either closed down or cut their ties with the Church because of new ‘gay rights’ laws.
As a member of the Speaker’s Conference group currently examining the ‘diversity’ of the Commons he has backed women-only shortlists to boost the number of female MPs.
He has also called for more gay and lesbian MPs. Homosexual activists hope the Speaker’s Conference will recommend that a quota system is introduced allowing for gay-only MP shortlists.
In 2006 he advocated that ten per cent of Commissioner posts on the powerful Equality and Human Rights Commission be reserved and guaranteed for homosexuals.
But he thinks Bishops should lose the right to sit in the House of Lords. In 2007 he said: “there is no case to be made for reserved, ex officio, guaranteed religious representation in the second Chamber. The argument simply does not hold water.”
He added: “The notion that there should be a privileged position for a small number of bishops in a decreasingly religious country simply will not wash.”
He is a supporter of making abortion easier and quicker but rejected attempts in 2007 to make sure women seeking abortion receive proper counselling and have a one week cooling-off period.
Last year he tabled an amendment which could have jailed pro-lifers who advertise alternatives to abortion. He also signed an amendment to extend the current British abortion law to Northern Ireland. Neither amendment became law.
He agreed with last year’s changes to the law which allow more destructive experiments on human embryos and the creation of embryos that are part animal, part human.
He supports making sex education compulsory in schools. At present, the law requires that secondary schools teach the biological facts about sex in science lessons.
Anything more than this is not currently compulsory, but the Government is proposing to make sex education lessons mandatory from primary school upwards.
He has pressed the Government on a number of occasions to consider the legalisation of cannabis.