Championing freedom and liberty for all shouldn’t be comfortable

I can’t count the number of people I’ve spoken to who are just as committed to equality as the next person, but maintain that pushing for further normalisation, rights, and freedoms for marginalised groups would be “rocking the boat”. That, essentially, we should be content with our lot.

This fatalism, that we should accept any level of discrimination or othering as inevitable, is fatal to any effort to extend further rights and freedoms to all marginalised groups and to defend the rights we have already won.

As liberals we champion freedom, equality and liberty of every individual, whoever they are. We reject conformity and all power imbalances in society. Yet for so many people the legal protections against workplace discrimination, equal marriage for same sex couples and legislation against sex and gender discrimination among others represent the end of the road.

I’m told that further normalising and championing LGB rights is polarising. That being unwavering in our commitment to Trans rights is polarising. That I should accept that in a new workplace or environment that I may have reason to fear being an LGBTQ person. That measures to level the playing field in our economy, in our education system, or in our democracy for groups systematically shut out and oppressed threatens support for pragmatic politics and akin to extremism we’re seeing on the right and left of global politics.

Yet I can’t think of anything more liberal. Any injustice against people for who they are, where they’re from, how they define, is the ultimate embodiment of power. That some people should wield more or less power in our society or economy simply because of who they are should be a rallying call for liberals everywhere.

We shouldn’t settle for a society that diminishes the place, power or safety of marginalised groups simply because we fear any repercussions from pushing at the boundaries of equality and liberty. Equality and freedom has never been won by asking nicely for more power, it has come from hard-fought struggles to rebalance power and privilege in our society. If Liberal Democrats won’t make that case, who will?

* Rhys Taylor is leader of the Liberal Democrat group on Cardiff Council.

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  • If there was one actual request for legislative or policy change in this piece then that would be something that one could consider. This piece has a huge amount of hyperbole and dramatic statements but absolutely no substance whatsoever.

    “That measures to level the playing field in our economy, in our education system, or in our democracy for groups systematically shut out and oppressed”

    There is no evidence whatsoever that LGB people are excluded from the economy, the education system or our democracy. Self-declared LGB people are significantly over-represented in the House of Commons (45 out of 650 or 7.5%) compared with the proportion of the population identifying as LGB (2.0% in 2017 with 93.2% declaring themselves straight or hetrosexual). The statistical evidence is that LGT people have higher earnings than average and that they have more education than average.

  • James Baillie 10th Sep '19 - 12:36pm

    Absolutely this. We need to get our party out there and arguing the case on these issues – we need something more than managerial centrism in order to win, especially in order to keep presenting a viable force that liberal voters want to support.

  • 45 MPs or 7.5% of the members of the House of Commons self-identify as LGB. This is over twice as a high as the percentage of the population which self-identify as LGB according to the ONS.

    Those statistics are difficult to reconcile with a claim that those who identify as LBG are “systematically shut out and oppressed” “in our democracy”.

    Looking forward to hearing thoughts of other commenters on this and hoping that there can be a genuine discussion about the claims made by Mr Rhys Taylor.

  • nigel hunter 10th Sep '19 - 5:55pm

    Humanity is a complex mix of genes and biological mixtures etc.. BUT we are all human and should be classed as the same no matter what

  • Rhys Taylor 11th Sep '19 - 9:23am

    Hi Rob Cannon – you’re assuming that I’m talking about LGB people when the article doesn’t actually reference a particular group beyond me using my own experience to somewhat colour the article.

    The purpose of the article isn’t to suggest legislation or particular course of action, it’s to challenge thinking around to what extent and to what degree to do push for further equality.

    There’s still widespread discrimination in our economy and education system around non-white pupils for example. I sit on my council’s education scrutiny committee and we’re seeing non-white pupils and ethnic-minority groups fall significantly behind their white, british counterparts in achieving the expected number of qualifications.

    Look at school leavers and univeristy-leavers. BAME pupils/students with the same or better education outcomes than their white peers are more likely to be out of work in the 6 months following leaving an education establishment than their white peers.

    Really, the point I’m making, without getting into an academic or policy debate about the specifics is that I’m increasingly hearing, in so many words, that those of us who campaign for equality (even where we’ve made significant strides with LGB rights for example) should be content with what we’ve got. I’m simply making the point that we should challenge that thinking.

  • Mick Taylor 11th Sep '19 - 9:27am

    When I started in politics being actively homosexual was illegal and you could lose your job if convicted. We have come a long way since then.
    A Liberal party like ours can never say ‘job done’ to issues of personal freedom. Whether it’s discrimination, equal marriage, rights at work, transgender issues or any other aspect of personal freedom, then there is always more to do.
    My older relatives were wholly opposed to the changes that were undertaken in the mid nineteen sixties on homosexuality, abortion, divorce, race relations, womens’ rights and capital punishment. Yet many of them came round to accepting the changes. For Liberals, being popular on these issues has never been paramount. Fighting for what is right is the prime reason for doing it.
    If Rob Cannon really believes that there is no evidence of discrimination against LGBT+ people, please tell that to my friend who was threatened by thugs because he hugged his male partner on a train in a moment of exuberance, or the lesbian couple whom were beaten up because they refused to kiss on a train. Try convincing a polyamorous household that insurance companies don’t refuse to insure them because they don’t know who will be sleeping where.
    So it’s my view that we must continue to push the boundaries of personal freedom and equality regardless of the fact that some people will find it offensive. That, for me, is one of the main reasons I came into politics for and why I am a Liberal.

  • Peter Hirst 11th Sep '19 - 2:31pm

    Empowerment and life-long education are key; we need plenty of incentives for people to improve their lot in life, at whatever stage they desire or can do it. This should be combined with a meritocracy where hard work and talent are rewarded. There should remain a secure safety net for those who for whatever reason cannot compete to enjoy a comfortable quality of life.

  • @Mick Taylor

    First, I don’t see what polyamory has to do with LGB? Straight people may be polyamorous also. I certainly don’t agree with the suggestion that LGB people are inherently more prone to polyamory.

    Secondly, as regards your friend who was threatened by thugs because he hugged his male partner on a train in a moment of exuberance, or “the lesbian couple who were beaten up because they refused to kiss on a train” (actually a bus according to the newspaper reports), neither incident involves discrimination nor can either incident be prevented or solved by more laws. I would like all those who are guilty of assault or battery to be prosecuted and maybe that’s where attention should be focused.

    You talk about personal freedom, but one person’s personal freedom, e.g. not to make a cake with a statement that endorses gay marriage, runs up against another’s, and boundaries have to be drawn. It’s frankly disappointing to me to read superficial analysis but I suppose for many people talking in vague general terms is what makes them feel good and they are best left to do that and leave the difficult decision-making and policy balancing to others.

  • Before people criticise the new MP recruit on the matter of health screening they should carefully consider the report published today by Public Health England. The Guardian reports on it today :

    “Almost 100,000 Britons are at risk of dying because they do not know that they have the deadly liver disease hepatitis C, health officials are warning.

    An estimated 95,600 people in the UK, mainly drug users, are believed to be suffering from the disease but are unaware of the condition because they have not been diagnosed, said Public Health England (PHE) on Friday.

    Steve Mowle, of the Royal College of GPs, said: “It’s extremely concerning to hear that so many people have undiagnosed hepatitis C. It’s a dangerous disease for individual patients and a significant public health risk.”

  • @David Raw “Before people criticise the new MP recruit on the matter of health screening they should carefully consider the report published today by Public Health England. ”

    I’m in utter shock. I think this is the first time we’ve ever agreed on anything.

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