A Green Party Councillor could face expulsion from the Green Group of councillors after being the only elected member of the Brighton and Hove City Council to vote against a motion in support of the Government’s plans to legalise same-sex ‘marriages.’
Hollingdean and Stanmer Councillor, Christina Summers, voted against the Government’s proposals to introduce same sex ‘marriages’ on a notice of motion put forward by Labour councillor Warren Morgan at last Thursday’s Full Council meeting.
Although members of the Green Party have a free vote on issues of conscience, Green Councillors met on Monday (23 July 2012) to request the launch of an official inquiry into Councillor Summers’ vote for being inconsistent with the party’s long-term support of same-sex ‘marriages.’
Deputy council leader Phelim MacCafferty, the party spokesman on LGBT issues, said: “Councillor Summers has a long standing position of conscience about religious marriage based on her faith. Greens believe she is entitled to hold her view but this does not reflect the position, spirit and track record of the Green Party in extending human and civil rights for all social groups irrespective of sexual orientation or on other grounds. Green Councillors will be meeting to discuss this issue soon.”
Councillor Summers maintained that the decision was based on her religious convictions and was not made “off the cuff.”
She told The Brighton Argus: “It certainly was a conscious decision; it certainly was not made off the cuff. I could have abstained but I needed to qualify that I could not. The problem here is the understanding of equality.
“I do not agree that disagreeing with same-sex marriage is disagreeing with equality at all. I feel that marriage is about a relationship between a man and a woman together in a relationship and about procreation and family.
“I’m accountable to God above any political party. Obviously whatever the cost, if there is a cost, then so be it. Every political party is a compromise and this was just too serious to me that I had to be true to myself.”
Councillor Summers also said that a redefinition of marriage will endanger the conscience rights of schools and churches, and that the Government’s method of addressing the issue was ‘unacceptable’ since neither the conservative nor liberal democrat manifestos mention the introduction of same-sex marriages.
She also raised concerns that a redefinition of marriage would have significant legal ramifications, and require “800 years of legislation” including approximately 3,000 citations of marriage to be amended.
Green blogger Duncan Roy has also repeatedly targeted Councillor Summers and called for her expulsion from the party for being a ‘Christian fundamentalist’ who puts “her own religious views above those of the party which got her elected…”
He went on to say that the Greens’ principled stance against “top-down chain[s] of command” is allowing Councillor Summers to make the party look foolish.
Since making her views known Councillor Summers has received a stream of abusive emails from outside the council accusing her of homophobia, suggesting that she is mentally ill and even describing her as a fascist.
She commented: “The response to the way I debated has been very vicious, but it doesn’t surprise me. Whenever, I or any Christian touches on issues of life or identity it does elicit a very, very violent response with very strong accusatory language.
“Those who voted to try and expel me would have had some suspicion about me being a Christian anyway, and coming into the party.
“Unfortunately, this is such a deep issue for so many of them that they could not help but look for the evidence that this Christian is a bigot, that this Christian is homophobic. Of all people my colleagues should know better.”
Andrea Minichiello Williams, CEO of the Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Councillor Summers, commented: “The strong-arm tactics of the Green Party apparatchiks in this instance are disturbing. For a party that prides itself on equality, it is deeply ironic that it seeks to remove Christina Summers for her views on marriage. Clearly some views are more equal than others in the Green Party.
“Hauling a councillor before a disciplinary panel for expressing her view on marriage in a free vote is unprincipled and unfair. What kind of freedom is it if someone is investigated for expressing a different opinion? Trying to coerce people into being loyal to the party above being loyal to their individual conscience calls to mind the worst kind of totalitarian politics.
“This sham of an inquiry against Miss Summers should be dropped immediately if the Green Party wants to retain the respect of a fair-minded public.”