Ruth Kelly, newly appointed as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, is also the Minister for Women and Equality. She will be responsible for the planned Equality Bill, and for other issues connected to gay rights. Yet when interviewed on BBC Radio Five Live, she refused to answer whether she thought homosexuality was a "sin".
Now this comes as no surprise. Kelly is a supporter of the ultra-conservative Catholic sect Opus Dei, which certainly regards being gay as sinful. And worse: she has not voted for a single one of the measures which New Labour has introduced to extend gay rights, missing twelve votes on the issue since 1997!
Kelly argues that, whatever her private views, she is "collectively responsible for cabinet decisions" and believes "that everyone should be protected from discrimination". How would we react if a minister responsible for racial equality refused to say whether she thought that black people were inferior to white people, giving only the kind of assurances that Kelly has given on gay rights?
Kelly's appointment - in fact the toleration of an Opus Dei supporter as a Labour MP, much less minister - is part of the same process that has seen this government expand religious schools, extend the blasphemy laws and pander to bigoted "community leaders" on a variety of issues.
Much of the left has defended right-wing Muslim bigots with homophobic views and condemned criticism of them as "Islamophobic"; logically, it should now defend Kelly and call her opponents "Catholophobic". Kelly has repeatedly tried to define the issue as one of whether it is "possible to be a practising Catholic and hold a portfolio in government". Our reply must be that it is not possible to belong to a homophobic religious cult, refuse to vote for gay rights and still claim you are for equality.