Has Stonewall snubbed the Liberal Democrats in their awards?

Every time I think kindly about Stonewall, they do something to annoy me. Way back in 2010, their opposition to equal marriage reached the fringes of our Liverpool Conference. That came just a few months after Ed Fordham wrote on here that he was no longer able to support Stonewall over its treatment of David Laws.

Happily, Stonewall did eventually come around to supporting equal marriage and attended the vigils outside Parliament which Ed organised when the Bill was being debated. They are also just about to start a brilliant campaign on homophobic bullying to run in anti-bullying week. They produce superb resources for teaching in schools.

Their relationship with the Liberal Democrats is patchy, though. They’re not all that bothered about giving us credit for anything, ever. At their annual awards on Thursday night, it was like our party had been air-brushed from history. There was no mention of Nick Clegg, who had been the first party leader to champion equal marriage, or of Willie Rennie who has done the same in Scotland. Why was Lynne Featherstone, the Minister who kicked off the same sex marriage legislation in England not mentioned even in passing?

There has been some commentary on the internet about this. Stephen Glenn writes on Stephen’s Liberal Journal:

Consider the amount of work that Liberal Democrats have actually done in areas of LGBT equality. Being the first party to back a lifting of the life time blood ban on MSM donors, being the first national party to have actually voted to adopt equal marriage as policy and before that fully supporting introduction of civil partnerships, backing allowing same-sex couple to adopt. You’d think that somewhere along the way as these milestones were achieved that we might have picked up the odd Stonewall award for our politicians.

He contrasts their approach with that of Attitude magazine:

Their attitude to this issue differs radically from Attitude magazine who for their politician of the year award honoured “Every MP who voted for Equal Marriage” recognising initially the leadership of Stephen Gilbert (Lib Dem), Nick Herbert (Conservative) and Chris Bryant. Their citation also mentions David Cameron and Lord Waheed Ali, but it goes to all 366 MPs who voted in favour.

His piece shows that it’s not just this year that Liberal Democrats, who have been at the forefront of equality and LGBT rights for decades, have come away empty-handed from Stonewall’s awards. On Facebook last night, some of us were talking about a motion on equality that was discussed at the 1995 Scottish Liberal Democrat conference. We have always been ahead of the curve on these issues and it is sad that Stonewall can’t recognise it.

Stonewall doesn’t campaign on transgender rights, but Liberal Democrats do. We maybe don’t do it as often and as loudly as we should, but that’s a work in progress. Many trans people were shocked that Baroness Stowell, who had strongly argued in favour of spousal veto, won the Politician of the Year Award. I know that most parliamentarians voted in favour of that or it wouldn’t be in the Act, but surely the work of  LGBT+ Lib Dems, Julian Huppert and Lynne Featherstone in advocating on these issues should have been recognised too?

Elsewhere, Pink News reports of Liberal Democrat disquiet about Stonewall’s failure to recognise our contribution. Stonewall’s response about Liz Barker was way too snippy and completely missed the point of what they were saying. Liz’s concern comes not out of ego but out of a failure to recognise what Liberal Democrats as a whole have achieved over decades.

As debate on these topics can get a bit heated and I’m going to be nipping in and out all day and not going to be able to keep an eye on how things are developing, I’m going to stick all comments on pre-moderation. I realise that this might seem a bit excessive, but I’m still having nightmares about other threads which have turned into massive slanging matches. This site is a safe space for everyone.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • I must admit, the Lib Dems are as deserving of a mention as any of the other parties on this, but aren’t Stonewall a bit irrelevant these days? They’ve pretty much won all the equality arguments they needed to, gay rights are mainstream, with cross party majority support and public acceptance so anti-discrimination measures are relatively easy to enforce. There is reduced need for a specific campaign now that it has become a part of mainstream civil society taken on by many disparate and varied groups.

  • g, the law has been changed but the battle has not been won by any stretch of the imagination. There is still rampant homophobia in many parts of our society. Don’t be so complacent.

  • jenny barnes 9th Nov '13 - 3:41pm

    Stone wall recently nominated Julie Bindel for their Journalist of the Year award. She is well known for her transphobia, writing in the Guardian and other journals. I would have thought that not being given any recognition by Stonewall was actually a positive thing. Do LDs want to be in Julie’s company?

  • Stonewall still matter in as much as they are the best known ‘brand’ and soak up by far the largest part of funding for LG(BT) related organisations.

  • Graham Evans 9th Nov '13 - 6:35pm

    I may be mistaken, but my problem with Stonewall (and Liberty) is that it seems to be run by Labour Party activists. Indeed, while the Tories are very keen on charities taking over many of the roles once performed by the state, I feel uncomfortable with charities becoming so reliant on state funding, When Stonewall started, it was a political campaigning organisation and did not qualify for charitable status. At some stage in its history it has morphed in a charity. Surely the sort of work which it does in schools should now be undertaken by a quite separate, genuine charitable organisation.

  • Lucas, I simply meant that the campaign for equality is now sufficiently mainstream so that Stonewall are one of many voices and thus their influence has waned.

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