Christine Jardine: We cannot rest until LGBT people across the globe can live freely

Yesterday was the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. In a Commons debate, Christine Jardine talked about the progress made over the last 40 years and the work still to do to rid us of discrimination against LGBT people. She particularly mentioned the prevalence of transphobia at the moment Here’s her speech in full.

This is an unusual situation because it is an important debate to have, and yet one that we probably all wish was not necessary. My right hon. Friend the Member for Putney (Justine Greening), who is no longer in her place, talked about many countries being on a journey. Regardless of the progress that we have made in this country and what we might think of that progress, and while we have travelled further than many countries, we have not yet completed our journey.

One of the things about being a Liberal is that when it comes to protecting and standing up for LGBTI rights, one has a lot to live up to. As far back as 1975, we committed to a gay rights policy with a resolution in favour of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality’s proposed law reform Bill. What sticks out for me about that is that it was 1975—just over 40 years ago. As my hon. Friend the Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East (Stuart C. McDonald) said, it is unimaginable that it was only 40 years ago that we were first talking of a campaign about full equality for homosexuals and equalising the age of consent for gay sex. If we fast-forward 40 years, at our 2015 conference we overwhelmingly opposed conversion therapy for all LGBT+ people—imagine that in 2015. We have travelled a considerable way, but we should not pat ourselves on the back quite yet, because we have a long way to go.

One of the most significant things for me—so far—was a statement made by Nick Clegg before the 2010 general election. When speaking about equal marriage, he said simply:

“All couples”—

I emphasise, all couples—

“should be able to make that commitment to one another”,

and now they can. Under the equal marriage legislation championed by Lynne Featherstone, of which I am particularly proud, we now live in a society where everyone is able to love equally.

I remember being asked just before the Scottish elections in 2011 whether I would support equal marriage. To me, that was a ridiculous question. What struck me was that if I had two children, one of whom was gay while the other was not, would I not want them to have the same rights, the same protection and the same respect from the law? What a ludicrous question.

Only today, my hon. Friend the Member for Ribble Valley (Mr Evans) has raised the issue of not being able to get married in church. I would like to make him an offer. [Interruption.] Not that sort of offer. One of my friends is a Church of Scotland minister, who is gay. If I had a word with him, I am sure that he would be more than happy to oblige when it came to the ceremony.

As I say, we have come a long way, but not as far as we should have done. At the moment, we are increasingly hearing about transphobia. Although the Equality Act 2010 protects trans people from discrimination—regardless of whether they have changed their birth certificate—and we have seen great strides in rights, we cannot rest until LGBT+ people across the globe are able to live freely, without fear of discrimination, marginalisation or criminalisation.

That is so even here in the UK where, as I have said, in recent months the trans community has faced a barrage of transphobia—denigrating their identities, dismissing their rights and defying the tolerance we cherish in this country. Imagine being a teenager who is facing all that: coming to a realisation about their sexuality or their gender identification, and seeing that denigrated every day in the media. It must be terrifying. It is not only terrifying and unacceptable, but dangerous, because 45% of trans school pupils in the UK report attempting suicide, which is unacceptable. The world is a difficult enough place for our teenagers without adding extra problems.

There is a list—a long list—of things that we still have to do in this country. With an eye to the time, I will not list them, but the biggest thing we have to do is to keep working on our tolerance. We must keep looking at where we can improve the situation—looking at every little thing, as well as the big things—to ensure that all our children live in a country where they feel equal.

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  • “equal marriage legislation”


    I’ll just leave this link here. Again. Note that the post is SO OLD that it has Tim Farron defending in it…

  • And how about different gender civil partnerships? Way to go I think.

  • Kay, yes, Plus campaigns in favour of those too.

    Now I’ve got my grump out of the way, I have to say, the rest of the speech is pretty good.

  • In the news this past week:

    Europe’s ‘last dictatorship’, Belarus, slams the British Embassy in Minsk for flying a rainbow flag on the International day against homophobia, and blat on about ‘traditional values’.

    Meanwhile, far right nationalists violently attack an LGBT event in Ukraine; and a European Human Rights commissioner stresses the need for Governments to do more in protecting LGBT rights, citing Azerbaijan and Chechnya, where hundreds of gay men and transgender people have been arrested, abducted and assaulted, in just the past year.

    Surely, these sort of things are more important than arguing semantics on twitter?

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