6:00pm Wednesday 12th September 2012
A Christian councillor who voted against supporting same-sex marriage claimed she has been intimated by Green party members over her stance.
Yesterday we revealed how Christina Summers is to be expelled from sitting with her colleagues on Brighton and Hove City Council after voting against supporting the policy in a town hall meeting earlier this year.
The decision was taken after an internal inquiry by Brighton and Hove Green Party ruled she had breached an agreement made before she stood as a candidate to “uphold and advance the values of equality for all people”.
When approached by The Argus with the decision, Coun Summers, who represents Hollingdean and Stanmer ward, said she was “crestfallen” by the decision which, if officially ratified by a number of Green councillors, will leave her as the only independent councillor on the local authority.
She said she had received intimidating emails from Green Party members before and after the council meeting for taking the “decision of conscience”.
Coun Summers said: “I have been waiting for weeks for my colleagues to make a clear and public decision.
“They have no idea how much I have been wanting to say to them and how many emails, blogs and tweets from the wider party membership I wanted to refute and respond to. But there is a time to speak and a time to be silent.
“In view of the Green Party’s own special interpretation of equality, my expulsion from the Green Group of councillors should not, in the end, come as a surprise.
“Nonetheless I can’t help but feel crestfallen.
“After at least two intimate years of campaigning and then serving together in administration, my own colleagues, who should know me well by now, have chosen to believe a lie.
“Party policy, however vague, is sovereign.”
The vote came after the local authority’s councillors were asked if they supported a motion to lobby the Government on changing the law at a meeting in July.
Coun Summers was the only member to vote against the proposal. This is despite the Greens being the first party nationally to supportthe idea of lifting the ban on same-sex marriage taking place through a civil ceremony.
Coun Summers, who is a devout Christian, told The Argus after the vote she did not agree that “disagreeing with same-sex marriage was disagreeing with equality”.
She added: “I’m accountable to God above any political party.”
The Brighton and Hove Green Party, which does not have a whip for its councillors, maintained the panel’s decision announced on Monday was not an issue of free speech or religion but about the candidate agreement.
Coun Summers said yesterday: “Anyone would have signed that agreement.
Who does not believe in promoting equality? I’m quite heartbroken as I’m Green in every other way.
“Whether I remain as a councillor or not remains to be seen.
“I was voted in by the residents of Hollingdean and Stanmer and I refuse to believe they voted me in specifically on equality and particularly as interpreted by the Green Party of Brighton and Hove.”
Responding to claims about intimidation from Green members, Rob Shepherd, of the Brighton and Hove Green Party, said: “The party has never said anything negative about Christina.
“Particularly in the early stages there were some people who said things which I would not want to be associated with.
“The issue is that, just as Christina has complete freedom of speech, so do other party members, providing it is within the law.”
Colleagues of Coun Summers were quick to give their view on the issue.
Conservative group leader Geoffrey Theobald said: “Rather than wasting all their time on internal squabbling, the Greens should be getting on with running this city, talking to businesses and sorting out the mess that their parking charges have created for example.
“I’m afraid this episode is just a symptom of the wider lack of political direction at the top of the Green Party.”
Labour group leader Gill Mitchell said: “This is an internal Green Party matter.”
Conservative councillor Dawn Barnett said: “God doesn’t pay his debts in money; he pays it in mysterious ways.
“This will come back and haunt the Green group.
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