"I have been repeatedly at odds with the Catholic Church," says Andy Burnham MP
Labour leadership hopeful Andy Burnham has revealed that his support for the LGBT community has caused rifts within his family, and has caused him to ‘change his relationship’ with the Catholic Church.
He told Pink News: “I’ve been at odds with my own family, and that has been to some personal cost at times in terms of relationships with people.
“I don’t say this to elicit sympathy but a relative of mine died (this week) who was a councillor on Liverpool city council for many years. He and I were very close, but the one time we fell out massively was over same-sex marriage, and it was a real fall-out.
“The reason I mention that is I have caused myself to change my own relationships, not just with the Church, but with members of my own family, in this cause.”
He also defended his voting record on LGBT issues after it was called into question by an article in The New Statesman.
The New Statesman published an article earlier this week claiming that Mr Burnham, who is seeking to succeed Ed Miliband as Labour leader, has “questions to answer” on LGBT equality, citing his vote for an amendment on the ‘need for a father’ in IVF and fertility care, and abstentions on same-sex adoption.
Mr Burnham was in fact on paternity leave at the time of the adoption votes – due to the birth of his daughter.
He told PinkNews: “I found the piece quite hurtful, actually. If you look back over my fourteen years in Parliament, I’ve voted for everything [on LGBT rights].
“The reason why I say it’s quite hurtful is because that has put me at odds, I have been repeatedly at odds with the Catholic church for all of my time as an MP. I have always been going against what they were saying, and that is challenging.
Mr Burnham, who praised David Cameron’s “brave move” in pushing forward on equal marriage, said he was only absent for a vote in 2002 because his daughter was born the day before or after and he was on paternity leave.
In the wide-ranging interview, the shadow health secretary said Catholic schools were “straightforwardly wrong” to claim teaching about same sex couples would violate their religious freedom.
“Though I did say that, and the Church did have a part in my upbringing, I am not a regular church-goer, I have to admit – even if that might cause me difficulty at home, in terms of my kids’ schools.
“I have no support for their position on the issue. None at all. The government’s weakening of SRE is a real problem – particularly in a context of a school system that is more atomised and less accountable.”
“Not only should SRE be absolutely compulsory, but there must be absolute equality in terms of all relationships within SRE in terms of how it is taught.
“I worry about an education policy that is making the academy or the free school judge and jury – letting it basically do what it wants.”
Expanding on issues faced by the Catholic Church in a world where LGBT rights are being gradually more accepted, he said: “I think with Pope Francis, this is a man who I think is very humane and has a belief in social justice and equality, he’s moved away from the judgemental Church, to a kind of much more open, inclusive approach.
“I would have a hope in terms of what he says and the way he says them that he would. He is innately sympathetic. The question is – is he prepared to take on the Vatican hierarchy?”
“I think it’s a big moment for the Church, when Ireland of all places votes in that way, for the Church to be massively at odds with public opinion in one of its most loyal heartlands. It’s becoming a real issue- how can they possibly ignore it?”