It has been 75 days since I was sitting in the public gallery of the Scottish Parliament listening to the stage 1 debate Scotland’s Equal Marriage Bill. But finally the stage 3 debate is only a matter of hours away and Equal Marriage in Scotland is within touching distance.
I say Equal Marriage because as the bill stands at the moment it not only provides a balance between equality and freedoms of religion and speech; it has also removed the spousal veto on gender recognition. The bill is truly equal for all members of the LGBT Community in Scotland.
However there have been a handful of amendments submitted by MSP’s that would roll back equality by introducing unnecessary and discriminatory special "protections" for opposition to same-sex marriage. I hope that MSP’s vote against these amendments.
By the end of March, the first Same Sex Marriages in England and Wales can officially begin to take place and there are hopes that Scotland will follow suit by the end of 2014.
I’m looking forward to seeing Scotland become the 17th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage.
Being lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans is not an illness, and attempts to ‘cure’ LGBT people are as ineffective as they are harmful and dangerous. That’s why I’ve proposed a Private Member’s Bill to ban so-called conversion therapy altogether.
At the moment, counsellors and therapists are completely unregulated. Anyone can set themselves up as one with no training or proper oversight. While bad doctors can be struck off and barred from practicing in the UK, there’s no way of stopping conversion therapists or any other practitioner who is preying on vulnerable people and damaging rather than helping them. My bill would change that by making all therapists sign up to one code of conduct which would expressly ban conversion therapy. Anyone who went on to practice it would be struck off for good.
I’m pleased that these plans have backing right across the party. Labour is and has always been the party of LGBT equality. But clearly those who practice and defend this therapy are less than happy with my plans. At a conference of conversion therapists in London today I set out my proposals for regulation and explained the immense harm that LGBT ‘cures’ can cause.Read more
Over it’s long history, the House of Commons chamber has seen many great speeches and memorable turns of phrase. But for every handsome phrase, there has often been a nasty one.
Yesterday Iain Duncan Smith – a former party leader and a Secretary of State, directed one such nasty comment towards the Labour front bench. He said: “I know Christmas is over but I think one of the pantomimes left a pantomime dame on the front bench” a comment seemingly directed at Chris Bryant MP, a shadow DWP minister who as it happens is also an openly gay MP (and one of LGBT Labour's Patrons).
This isn’t the first time Chris Bryant has been taunted as such; in 2010 the Chancellor did exactly the same thing.
This isn’t just about Chris Bryant, but about the responsibility that Members of Parliament should feel about using discriminatory language in the House of Commons chamber.
In 2011 the Prime Minister told another member of the Labour frontbench, Angela Eagle to ‘calm down dear’ at Prime Minister’s Question. For many people this is their only glimpse of Parliament Parliament. The list of condescending language used by this government front bench goes on.
Many may say ‘well, what does it matter?’ and ‘lighten up’, ‘stop being so PC’; but the honest truth is, language really does matter.
Stonewall only recently launched a campaign to stamp out the negative use of the word ‘gay’ in schools and Diversity Role Models have been working over the last few years to confront children’s perceptions of LGBT people head on. This doesn’t even mention the continuing culture of misogyny in public life.
Now, of course no Minister would be foolish enough to call someone ‘gay’ or worse in public. But that doesn’t mean that cheap gags don’t undermine the work of organisations like Stonewall to change the way people refer to gay people.
Every time a minister uses even a slightly misogynistic or homophobic phrase or panders to sexist or homophobic stereotypes, it gives credence to homophobes and sexists.
Members of Parliament have a duty to demonstrate that we are a society of equality that does not accept discrimination in word or deed.
The House of Commons will always be a place of hyperbole but this is no excuse for the use of discriminatory language.
We call on Iain Duncan Smith to apologise to Chris Bryant, and for the Tory front bench to pledge to leave homophobic stereotypes out of Parliamentary debate.
Times have changed; this kind of language is no longer acceptable and Cameron and the Tories have to prove they get it. Otherwise it seems that the Nasty Party is alive and well.
Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones is in Uganda this week to see the impact Welsh funded aid projects are having.
But there’s one group in Uganda that don’t seem to have made it onto the First Minister’s agenda and it’s a group that can’t afford to be left off. Uganda’s LGBT community who, already persecuted, are anxiously waiting to see if President Museveni will sign into law a bill that will criminalise not only “homosexual acts” but campaigning for LGBT equality.
Welsh LGBT groups have rightly called for Carwyn to use this visit as an opportunity to lobby the President to reject the bill and we echo that call.
In addition we’d ask Carwyn to take it a step further by meeting with LGBT groups on the ground, letting them know that their struggle for equality is one in which they have global support.
But this can’t just be about one visit, we’re asking the Welsh Government to ensure that supporting LGBT equality is core to their international work because, as the only Labour Government in the UK, they have a responsibility to uphold Labour values of equality and justice.
LGBT Labour welcomes the announcement of the royal pardon of Dr Alan Turing
Dr Alan Turing, a World War Two code breaker and computer pioneer, has been given a posthumous royal pardon for his 1952 conviction for homosexuality. He was punished by being chemically castrated and is thought to have later taken his own life.
Bev Craig, Co-Chair of LGBT Labour said:
"Alan Turing is a hero - not just to the LGBT community, but to the whole nation. Having helped cracked the Enigma Code and being he larded as the Father of the modern computer, Alan Turing was convicted of homosexuality in 1952 and forced to choose between castration or imprisonment.
Following the official apology in 2009, this royal pardon is the last step in finally recognising this great man and his achievements. LGBT Labour has campaigned for his pardon, and we are so pleased it is finally going to happen; for his family, his friends, the LGBT community and the country as a whole. We can celebrate how far society as come since Turing's prosecution."
For many years, Alan Turing was based at Bletchley Park, not far from Milton Keynes. Andrew Pakes, Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate for Milton Keynes South said:
“This is welcome news for everyone who has been involved in this great campaign to pardon Alan Turing. Alan Turing was a great British hero persecuted for a crime that no longer exists. This is another step towards recognising our history and ensuring that the real story of Britain is celebrated. I am really pleased that the government has listened to campaigners and accepted the special circumstances for a pardon.”
Notes to editors
- LGBT Labour is the Labour Campaign for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights. Affiliated to the Labour Party, we campaign for LGBT rights within the Labour movement.
- LGBT Labour, alongside Scientists for Labour, have drawn attention to the treatment of Alan Turing.
- In 2009, then Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologised for the treatment of Alan.
- In 2012, Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan backed the campaign for a pardon of Alan Turing
My eye was drawn last week to a small news story that the producers of the Graham Norton show had been rebuked by the BBC for allowing the host to wear a red ribbon to mark World Aids Day as it was in breach of the broadcaster’s rules.
Specifically, the editorial guidelines state: "The BBC must remain independent and distanced from government initiatives, campaigners, charities and their agendas, no matter how apparently worthy the cause or how much their message appears to be accepted or uncontroversial."
The BBC has rightly made an exemption for the poppy campaign in support of our veterans and their families. That campaign has been so successful that it is now noticeable when you see anyone from a quiz show guest to a weather reader not wearing a poppy on television. The poppy campaign achieves great results both as a fundraising as well as remembrance campaign from the British Legion and one that no sensible person would object to.
This does also raise the question of BBC journalists and others taking part in Movember which would appear to be in breach of the same guidelines that were quoted in the Graham Norton case.
In the case of the red ribbon campaign the aim is simply to raise awareness. It cannot be argued that it’s primary aim is fundraising or commercial, something which might give the BBC more of a case. And incidentally it is somewhat ironic that the BBC would object to raising awareness of this crucial issue on a programme that is a highly entertaining but essentially license fee funded extended advert for folks to come and promote their latest book, movie or whatever.
To turn a blind eye to such explicit commercial marketing and yet object to an awareness campaign designed to improve public health seems to turn the very principles of public service broadcasting on its head.
I can understand if the BBC is worried that their news readers, for example, were to become a pin board for various different issues whilst supposedly impartially reading the news, but this is a blanket ban that catches far too much within it’s scope. The fact is the World Aids Day ribbon has a universality and apolitical nature to it that others campaigns don’t.
That’s why its time for the BBC to rethink these rules and recognise the importance of the red ribbon campaign. If you agree, then please sign the National AIDS Trust petition and write to the Director General, Tony Hall so that we can tackle the scourge of HIV and ensure common sense prevails at the BBC.
Matthew Doyle is a former Head of Press and Broadcasting for the Labour Party
LGBT Labour today welcomes the Government’s announcement of the date for the first same sex marriage in England and Wales. The measure will allow same sex couples to become married in a registry or approved religious premises from 29 March 2014. Those couples wishing to be among the first to marry will need to formally give notice of their intention to marry on 13 March 2014.
LGBT Labour has however urged the Government to speed up their plans on civil partnerships and reforming marriage law for the Trans community.
Tom Burke, LGBT Labour Co-Chair said:
“The Labour Party overwhelmingly voted for the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act. We welcome today’s announcement that couples will be able to marry from next March.
We are concerned by the further delays to couples currently in civil partnerships being able to convert to a marriage and implementing provisions to allow married people wanting to change their legal gender without their annulling their marriage.
Following months of consultation and the passage of the Bill through Parliament, there is no compelling reason for further delay. The Government has had plenty of time to set plans. Many couples were waiting for today’s news and will be disappointed by the delays. We urge the Government to remove uncertainty and set a timetable as soon as possible.”Read more
World AIDS Day 2013: Government resistance to sex and relationship education is putting young people at risk
LGBT Labour today marks World AIDS Day highlighting the Tory-led Governments continued resistance to sex and relationship education.
Tom Burke, Co-Chair of LGBT Labour comments:
“Earlier this year, Michael Gove removed HIV from the national school curriculum. He has continually resisted calls for all young people to take part in sex and relationship education. Even where sex and relationship education does take place, school inspectors say it requires improvement in more than a third of schools.”
Young gay and bisexual men remain at higher risk of HIV. Yet, this Government is denying them the education they need to make wise choices.
The vast majority of parents back sex and relationship education and learning about HIV in schools. It’s time for Michael Gove to listen to parents, experts and young people themselves and make sex and relationship education compulsory.”
Notes to editorsRead more
Ten years ago, the Labour Party abolished Section 28. In 2004, the Labour Party played a key role in passing legislation for civil partnerships, paving the way for a successful equal marriage vote in 2013. We have come so far in just a few years but there is still so much more work to be done.
LGBT Labour Scotland welcomes the Marriage and Civil Partnerships (Scotland) Bill. We believe the legislation will be a huge step forward for equality in Scotland, and that it provides a balance between equality and freedoms of religion and speech. We believe it is the right time to introduce full marriage equality. It is a debate that is being had across the world and has the overwhelming support of the LGBT community and widespread support amongst the public. In a poll by Ipsos-Mori carried out in 2012, it showed that 64% of Scots support the right of same-sex couples to marry.
LGBT people still face so much discrimination, whether that’s at school, college, university, the workplace, or even in the street. We the LGBT community have waited so long for the same marriage equality as heterosexual counterparts and as Labour Party members, we know that it is Labour that is the true party of equality. Now that equal marriage has passed in England and Wales, it’s time for Scotland to follow suit and allow our citizens to marry the person they love, regardless of gender.
We recognise that Scotland is a deeply diverse country and religion plays an important role in many people’s lives. However, we believe that Scotland’s equal marriage bill makes the right balance between religious traditions and equality for all. We know that there may be some anxieties about the effect this bill will have on people of faith but we are confident that our MSPs will be able to fine-tune this piece of legislation to offer our LGBT community full marriage equality.
With the first vote taking place today, we encourage all MSPs to show they are on the right side of history and take this first step toward marriage equality in Scotland.
Bev Craig, Co-chair LGBT Labour said:
"LGBT Labour is proud to see a Labour MP stand up in Westminster Hall today to call for so called 'gay-to-straight' conversion therapy to be banned. This sort of regressive 'treatment' serves only to alienate the most vulnerable leaving them confused, scared and with nowhere to go.
The current regulation of talking therapies does not offer adequate protection for LGBT people. This Government must take action to ensure that no one is harmed by unregulated therapists and counsellors.
Being gay or lesbian is not a disease to be treated, but part of who people are. We fully support the work Labour MPs such are Sandra Osborne and Geraint Davies are doing to raise this important issue."
Sandra Osborne MP will today lead a debate on conversion therapy in Westminster Hall. The debate can be watched here: http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=14199