Prime Minister David Cameron has appointed Caroline Dinenage to serve as the new equalities minister.
Mr Cameron confirmed on twitter that she will have a dual role, and will also act as Parliamentary under secretary of state at the Ministry of Justice.
The appointment is controversial as Ms Dinenage, MP for Gosport, voted against marriage equality in 2013.
At the time of the vote, Ms Dinenage expressed a view that “the state has no right to redefine the meaning of marriage”, advising a Pink News reader that she would be voting against same-sex marriage as she saw “no reason to change” the law. “Preventing same-sex couples from being allowed to ‘marry’ takes nothing away from their relationship” she explained.
Although she voted against the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill in the Second Reading debate, she later voted to legalise same-sex marriage for armed services personnel working outside the UK.
The equalities minister has overall responsibility for the UK government’s policies towards women, policy on sexual orientation and transgender equality and for co-ordinating cross-government equality strategy and legislation. It is therefore a role with significance to Scotland, as Ms Dinenage’s remit includes collaborating with the Scottish Parliament on equality matters.
Ms Dinenage’s promotion appears to owe something to the Prime Minister’s determination to increase the number of women and state-educated ministers, and may be designed to help banish the negative image he gained for himself in the previous government by surrounding himself with privately-educated male friends.
It is not the first time that David Cameron’s choice of equalities minister has proved controversial. In 2012 Lynne Featherstone, who had done so much to pave the way for same-sex marriage legislation, was replaced by Maria Miller whose previous votes on LGBTI rights and abortion suggested she might be unsuited to the role. However, she later admitted to changing her mind and hailed the advent of marriage equality as “a historic achievement.”