Students, locals and politicians have been quick to blast Stirling MP Stephen Kerr after he voted against extending LGBT marriage and abortion rights in the House of Commons yesterday (July 9).
Two votes took place in Westminster; the first was to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, if there remains to be no devolved government in Stormont by October 21.
The second was to legalise abortion in the province by the same date, under the same conditions.
Stephen Kerr was one of only 73 MPs to vote against the same sex marriage proposal and joined 99 other MPs in opposing the extension of abortion rights, in a move which has angered a number of residents in the Stirling constituency.
Stirling SNP Councillor, Alison Laurie hit back at Kerr’s decision to actively vote against LGBT rights.
She said: “For most parties in the Commons, these were ‘free votes’, due to the nature of them being areas of devolved responsibility. However, instead of choosing to abstain, Mr Kerr decided to actively vote against same-sex marriage – demonstrating his clear opposition to it.”
She also said that Kerr’s most recent voting behaviour is just the latest in a history of voting negatively against the LGBTQ+ community.
“Mr Kerr is out of step with modern compassionate thinking, and does not speak for the good people he represents in the Stirling area. However, despite his efforts, I am delighted that same-sex marriage will finally be extended to couples in Northern Ireland.”
In addition, Mr Kerr has been criticised for refusing to support key LGBT campaigns in Scotland, such as the TIE Campaign (against LGBT bullying in schools) and the Equality Network campaign to further rights and protections of LGBT people in the UK and across the world.
Stephen Kerr has yet to respond to a request for comment.
This is not the first time that Kerr has come under-fire for his stance on LGBT rights. The Herald reported, in 2017, that during Kerr’s tenure as a key figure in the Mormon church, young gay men were outed, in what they described the religion as a “cult”, which is openly hostile to LGBT members.
Kerr was an Area Seventy within the Church of the Latter Day Saints at the time.
The MP vehemently denies the allegations that he was involved in the outing of gay men, and claims that he is in favour of equal marriage.
The controversial MP took to Twitter yesterday to defend the way in which he voted.
He wrote: “Today I voted twice to uphold the devolution settlement which is so important to bringing powers closer to the people they affect.
“Worrying to see so many SNP MPs voting to undermine it. I will continue to support devolution and to work as hard as I can to strengthen the Union.”
President of the university’s LGBTQ+ society, Adam Davidson, who is from Bangor, Northern Ireland, has also spoken out against the remarks:
“I find it mind boggling really. This is something that reflects what is needed for Northern Ireland in order to bring us in line with the rest of the UK, so I don’t understand why Stephen Kerr would want to reject something we’ve been fighting for for so long.
“I understand it was based on the absence of Stormont, however the people of Northern Ireland would most likely never get this opportunity if it was still present; due to the ruling political party’s inability to separate their religious beliefs from their political responsibilities.”
In a Twitter exchange, MP Kerr explained to Davidson that his vote was “to protect the principle of devolution” and that he felt a “precedent would be set of English MPs utilising a power grab over devolved settlements.”
Meanwhile, Students’ Union President Nelson Acquah said: “Personally, I think the rights of every person needs to be respected and thus any vote that undermines such rights should not be celebrated.”
He added: “Same sex marriage and abortion rights have been advocated for long and I believe he should have voted to reflect the views of the majority of his constituents other than making his personal views dictate his vote on these two issues.”
And others have speculated how Ruth Davidson, as the first gay leader of the Scottish Conservatist and Unionist party, will respond, given that five Scottish Tory MPs voted the same way as Kerr.
In a tweet to Holyrood’s leader of the opposition, senior lecturer at the University of Stirling, Tom Collins, said: “How proud are you that all the opponents of the NI gay marriage vote in the Commons yesterday were Tories or members of the DUP?”
Although the results of the vote mean that Northern Irish citizens will be on an equal playing field as the rest of the United Kingdom, providing that there is a continued absence in Stormont, Kerr’s voting behaviour continues to sit uncomfortably with some Stirling citizens.