Clegg calls gay marriage opponents ‘bigots’, then withdraws the remark
Nick Clegg has withdrawn comments in which he branded opponents of gay marriage “bigots”.
The Deputy Prime Minister was expected to launch an attack on opponents of the policy in a speech at a reception later.
Extracts released early by officials said: “Continued trouble in the economy gives the bigots a stick to beat us with, as they demand we ‘postpone’ the equalities agenda in order to deal with ‘the things people really care about’.”
Some 90 minutes later aides had corrected the text, insisting an early draft had been released in error.
The revised version said: “Continued trouble in the economy leads some people to demand we ‘postpone’ the equalities agenda in order to deal with ‘the things people really care about’.”
The coalition’s pledge to introduce same-sex civil marriage by 2015 has been criticised by religious groups and triggered unease in Conservative ranks – with some ministers suggesting they might not support it in parliament.
Prime Minister David Cameron has signalled that MPs will be given a free vote on the issue, but stressed his personal commitment.
Opponents of gay marriage voiced fury at the use of the word “bigot” in the initial version.
A spokesman for the Coalition for Marriage said: “These intolerant and intemperate remarks by Nick Clegg show that there is nothing liberal about him whatsoever.
“The majority of people in this country oppose the redefinition of marriage, according to polling, and his comments effectively criticise millions of ordinary men and women.
“Nick Clegg should confine himself to fixing the broken economy, which he was elected to do, rather than attacking those people who back the centuries-old definition of marriage.”