Rob Shepherd, member of the executive committee of Brighton and Hove Green Party, said, "On 23 July the Green Group of councillors on Brighton & Hove City Council asked for the formation of a panel of inquiry to look into issues relating to Councillor Christina Summers, following her disclosure in council that she did not support equal (or same-sex) civil marriage.
"Equal marriage is a long-held policy of the Green Party and something that the Green Party was championing when the other main parties were still thinking about civil partnerships.
"Any party member is entitled to request such an inquiry and the party is obliged to establish one if there are sufficient numbers calling for it.
"I want to be clear that the Green Group members’ request for an inquiry was nothing to do with Councillor Summers' religious views on same-sex marriage or about her right to voice her beliefs.
"The Green Party is a fierce defender of free speech and freedom of beliefs.
"Green city council leader Jason Kitcat highlighted Councillor Summers’ right to freedom of expression in his response to her speech and the party has since made public statements to the same effect.
"Speaking and voting against policy would not, of itself, be a matter for an internal inquiry.
"Councillor Summers is not the first to do so and won’t be the last.
"This is not an issue of free speech. Nor is it a religious matter.
"The Green Party is as welcoming of Christians as it is of any other faith; indeed, we have other Christians in our Green Group, not to mention a Christian Chief Executive and a Christian national party chair.
"The issue was that when she stood as a Green candidate, and when she asked people to vote for her as a Green councillor, Councillor Summers had made a written undertaking that if she was selected as a candidate and elected to public office, she would uphold and advance the values of “equality for all people, regardless of race, colour, gender, sexual orientation, religion, social origin or any other prejudice.""
"The councillors who asked for the Inquiry wanted to know whether Councillor Summers was in breach of her undertaking as a candidate.
"Councillor Summers has argued in the media that equality of marriage for same sex couples is not an issue of equality.
"The councillors who asked for the inquiry would not agree with her.
"This was a completely internal inquiry and, for all Councillor Summers knew, might quickly have exonerated her.
"However, Councillor Summers turned immediately to an outside agency, the Christian Legal Centre, and its CEO, Andrea Minichiello Williams, who put out a press release and briefed the press with anti-Green sentiments, claiming that the party had instituted “disciplinary proceedings against one of its councillors for refusing to vote in favour of same-sex marriage."
"It claimed that "[The Green Party] seeks to remove Christina Summers for her views on marriage" which was untrue, talking about "the strong-arm tactics of the Green Party apparatchiks" and more, all extremely anti-party and all pre-judging the outcome of an inquiry that hadn’t even sat, and incorrectly seeking to tie the remit of the panel into a question faith freedom.
"On the back of all this, and entirely of her own accord, Councillor Summers appeared in local and national newspapers and on radio and TV.
"Is this the action of someone who is loyal to the Green Party and holds the same views and values as the party, which was seeking to be scrupulously fair to everyone involved?
"Since that time, the inquiry panel has met several times, including a meeting with Councillor Summers and another adviser from the Christian Legal Centre.
"Earlier today, the panel notified its conclusions to the Green Group of councillors and to Councillor Summers.
"The panel does not have the power to expel Councillor Summers from the party or to remove her as a councillor but it has concluded that, in relation not to her speech or vote in the council chamber or her sincerely held religious views, but in relation to her breach of her own written undertakings as a council candidate and her recent behaviour towards the party, she should be expelled from the Green Group of councillors, making her an independent councillor."
For more information please contact the Brighton and Hove Green Party office on 01273 766 670.
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