LibLink: Norman Lamb MP.. I will stand up for LGBT rights as Lib Dem Leader

Tim Farron gave a major interview to Pink News a few weeks ago and now it’s the turn of Norman Lamb to lay out his views on LGBT issues.

He wrote for the site this week, starting off by reminding us that when he came into parliament, it was legal to discriminate against LGBT adoptive parents, section 28 was still in force, homophobic bullying was rife in school and LGBT couples were not allowed to get married (or even have a civil partnership).

It has been a privilege throughout that time to have had the chance to be part of the movement to change these profoundly homophobic laws that institutionalised bigotry, created misery and held back people’s freedom to love and thrive.

So far, my contribution to that change was as Health Minister in the Coalition government. I made the cause of equality for those suffering mental ill health a true NHS priority for the first time.

I recognise the impact of mental ill health on the LGBT community. I introduced the first maximum waiting times for mental health treatment.

I also worked to tackle the evil of gay ‘conversion therapy’, that treat people’s sexuality as a sickness rather than something to celebrate.

I proposed and secured the first ever memorandum of understanding with all the key bodies to commit clearly that this so called therapy has no place in a modern country.

There is, he argues, so much more to do:

Gay men must be allowed to give blood on an equal basis to straight men, we must introduce gender neutral passports and end the spousal veto.

We must also allow straight couples to enter into civil partnerships and give new rights to cohabiting couples.

But in the coming years, we will reach a point where the LGBT community has, in almost all respects, achieved equality under the law. Some will say the fight is over in Britain. They will be wrong.

There’s more to it than that, though. He goes into some detail about cultural change. He recognises that it’s a problem when you are a young LGBT person feeling that there is nobody else like you on tv programmes and he’s doing something about it:

Furthermore, it is deemed inappropriate to show same-sex couples on children’s television – in a manner not dissimilar from the treatment of mixed-race couples a generation ago.

Our broadcasters must realise that sexuality is not, fundamentally, about who you want to have sex with – but who you are, and who you love.

Why would a young person, perhaps questioning their sexuality, know that there was nothing wrong or strange about being gay if everything they had ever seen told them otherwise? I have written to the heads of the main TV channels demanding action.

You can read the whole article here.

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  • Helen Tedcastle 13th Jun '15 - 2:58pm

    I get the feeling that Norman Lamb doesn’t watch TV very much and certainly hasn’t watched reality shows or soaps, where there are a variety of young and not so young LGBT characters and have been for years eg: Hayley Cropper RIP – a transgender male-female who married Roy Cropper in Coronation St. There is also the comedy series Vicious about an elderly gay couple and their friends.

  • I have to be honest and say the quite obvious negativity that Normans campaign is running on is very off putting. His own announcements…drugs and assisted dying (were already policy or lifted from our manifesto) if this was a exam he’d have been done for plagiarism!

  • @Dave: there’s a difference between party policy and what the leader chooses to prioritise – for example, tuition fees! The fact that Norman is completely on board here fills me with confidence.

  • Tony Dawson 13th Jun '15 - 6:21pm

    This is all very worthy.

    And that’s about it.

    Worthiness is not leadership.

  • Good point on fees….he voted for and helped twist arms to get backbench MPs to break their promises. Leadership? That’s not leadership to me….

  • Helen Tedcastle is right. There have been same sex, LBGT and other distinctive characters on popular TV for a very long time. Just watch Big Brother, Hollyoaks etc. a transsexual woman actually won Big Brother one year.

    And as the parent of teenage children, the young seem to rightly regard being LGBT as perfectly normal these days. So maybe Norman is a bit behind with the times. Fair enough, speak out against people who refuse to make cakes for gay couples, or B&B owners who refuse to let them stay in one room together. But I don’t feel representation in the media is the problem here. Now when it comes to BAME people, people of different cultures or Easter Europeans featuring in popular soaps that’s another story altogether.

  • @Dave: Could you point me to a source for your statement about Norman forcing people to do that?

  • Steven Jones 13th Jun '15 - 10:00pm

    Some people commenting just don’t seem to be inhabiting planet Earth. As the article says, 57% of young gay and bi men – and 71% of lesbian and bi women – think about killing themselves.

    There is therefore still a MASSIVE problem around how young LGBT people feel about themselves. It is a MASSIVE issue – and Norman is showing leadership on it. Can anyone think of a same sex couple or gay parents or someone trans on children’s TV that would be watched by kids younger than 14? I certainly can’t. People’s failure to even see the issue is a huge part of the problem.

    Norman sees it – and that’s part of leadership

  • Steven Jones : have you ever watched Hollyoaks? It is aimed at teenagers but widely watched by pre-teens and indeed by older people. One reason for this is that it is on at 6:30 every weekday and follows on from The Simpsons also watched by many young and not so young folks. Hollyoaks was named ‘Broadcast of the Year’ in 2007 by Stonewall for its “sympathetic and convincing handling” of a gay storyline.

    Many teens and pre-teens also watch Eastenders and Coronation Street because they are the biggest soaps and people watch them as a family.

    No-one is closing their minds to the fact that many LGBT young people find themselves desperately unhappy even to the point of suicide . The reason for that is, I expect, rooted in bigotry from others in society such as the people I mentioned, who do not accept people who are LGBT. Norman does not even mention that.

  • Steven Jones 14th Jun '15 - 2:09am

    You’re clearly not getting the point. Hollyoaks is a good show, but it’s a soap clearly not ‘aimed’ at under-14s, let alone young children. Maybe I should be more specific then. Find me anything on CBBC, CITV, etc. which entirely normalises same sex relationships in the eyes of children. The Disney Channel seem alone on this – and they’ve done it once:

    Disney’s Frozen also showed a gay family – though for less than two seconds

  • Graham Evans 14th Jun '15 - 9:03am

    Some people seem to think that because the law in this county has just about brought equality for gay and straight people – though still not on the issue of pensions – and the fact that there are now some LGBTI characters in TV shows – that LGBT issues should be allowed to drop down the political agenda. Tackling all forms of discrimination is a process, not an event, and there is still a long way to go in helping young LGBTI people come out and feel comfortable within there own communities. It seems to me that many supporters of Tim Farron want to let this issue drop simply because he hardly represents a bastion of progressive liberalism on this matter.

  • Graham Evans 14th Jun '15 - 9:55am

    @ Helen Tadcastle “and the comedy series Vicious”
    I don’t know the demographics of the series but the viewing figures must be reasonable for a new series to have been made. However, the portrayal of the gay characters is reminiscent of “Are you being served?”. I doubt whether there are many gay young men and boys, who apart from their sexual attractions, share the same interests and attitudes as their straight friends, find this series an encouragement to coming out or coming to terms with their own sexuality. In fact we have to look to the US for inspiration in terms of characters with whom young gay men might identify, whether it be ” Queer as Folk USA”, though that series ended in 2005, or more recently “Looking” from HBO, and even “Glee” from Fox. These are simply not the sort of programmes that main stream UK broadcasters make.

  • Graham Evans “Tackling all forms of discrimination is a process, not an event, and there is still a long way to go in helping young LGBTI people come out and feel comfortable within there own communities”.

    That’s exactly the point I was making, that bigotry and discrimination is the problem. Showing more LGBT relationships on CBBC is not really going to address that.

    Stephen Jones, it’s the pre-teen years which are critical in people becoming depressed if they feel that they are not accepted. That’s true of LGBT people and also of people who have autism or other disabilities. I’m not sure if the fact that they saw gay parents on CBBC when they were five is going to make the feel any better if at thirteen they are encountering bigotry in real life or hearing in the media about gay couples being turned away from B&Bs.

    Social media is a big factor.

    On a more positive note, in our children’s school and among our children’s friendship groups, there are more which Norman has not mentioned. Openly gay youngsters than ever before. No-one seems to thinks anything of it and that is how it should be.

  • There is certainly progress towards equality for LGBTIs but passing laws is simpler than changing the views of a mixed society. There are still huge numbers of citizens who do not engage with the laws passed by parliament and our leadership candidates must look outwards from parliament – as Norman is doing on this thread – and take ‘actions’ which are so far unexplored. Working the laws and new actions into society will take much longer – and I’m not aware that it is possible to confirm that new arrivals into UK are on-board with our equality laws – as they have had years of preaching that LGBTIs are not to be assimilated into their communities. Unfortunately ‘faiths’ still largely focus on centuries-old writings which did not have the benefit of our new laws.

    Much work to do, especially in the communities who are told to think ‘otherwise’.

  • Helen Tedcastle 14th Jun '15 - 12:49pm

    @ Steven Jones
    I think you’ll find that suicide and depression is restricted to LGBTs but is a growing problem in young men regardless of sexual orientation: This from the Guardian: :

    To quote: “A huge number are men and, of those men, the vulnerable age group is 20-50.” Figures tell us that “young men are very much more likely to commit an aggressive act of self harm against themselves.”

    @ Toby Rowan-Wicks
    ‘ Unfortunately ‘faiths’ still largely focus on centuries-old writings which did not have the benefit of our new laws.’

    I am unclear what this claim means. Which faiths focus on writings which do not benefit ‘new’ laws? It seems to make little sense. Perhaps you would care to clarify.

  • Helen Tedcastle 14th Jun '15 - 1:47pm

    Apologies, my comment is addressed to Tony Rowan-Wicks.

  • Graham Evans 14th Jun '15 - 10:29pm

    @ Phyllis “On a more positive note, in our children’s school and among our children’s friendship groups, there are more which Norman has not mentioned, openly gay youngsters than ever before. No-one seems to thinks anything of it and that is how it should be.”
    It is undoubtedly the case that there is much more tolerance towards gay people, young or old, than there was even ten years ago. However, we have to recognise that the default assumption is that boys and girls are heterosexual, and that it is much more difficult for gay teenagers, particularly boys, to explore their emotional and sexual relationships with others of the same orientation. If you are say a black boy in a predominantly white community you can immediately recognise other black girls with whom you might develop a bond. Alternatively you may approach white girls with at least the high probability that in terms of sexual attraction you both have something in common. Such options are simply not available to most young gay people, and only become available when they are much older. Moreover, it is one thing for a heterosexual boy to express tolerance in the abstract of gay people, it is an entirely different matter if he is propositioned by another boy.

  • Helen Tedcastle 15th Jun '15 - 9:35am

    @ Graham Evans

    There are other young LGBT role-models on TV aswell – Sophie Webster – a young lesbian on Coronation St has been out for a least five years and has had several storylines involving her relationships. Also in Eastenders there was a storyline about a young Asian gay male and his battle for acceptance in his family. Eventually he found a male partner and there were storylines over their new life together until they left the series a year or so ago. There is now a new storyline about a gay male thirty something in Corrie and his burgeoning relationship. Of course, there are other comedies such as Little Britain which had a number of gay characters, young and old.

    I think you’ll find that there are storylines out there and the ground shifted years ago.

  • Graham Evans 15th Jun '15 - 10:49am

    @ Helen Tedcastle
    Ignoring the fact that soaps are targeted at a broad family audience, rather than young people, spending 25 minutes watching the lives of straight people, for the odd snippet of a gay story line is no substitute for programmes in which gay people are the main protagonists. “Skins” did at least target young people, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Jun '15 - 9:48am


    Stephen Jones, it’s the pre-teen years which are critical in people becoming depressed if they feel that they are not accepted. That’s true of LGBT people and also of people who have autism or other disabilities.

    And people who have a naturally quiet or introverted personality. People who don’t like sport. People who don’t like pop music. People who aren’t LGBT but also don’t much care for an aggressive conventionally male or female image either. And so on. In short, anyone who doesn’t conform to current trends and fashions.

    I quite agree that separating out LGBT people as some special group requiring special attention is probably counterproductive. One sometimes gets the impression that the absolute obsession that many in this party seem to have with the LGBT issue means they don’t really care about anyone else. It also seems to be leading to a new sort of conformity, in which if you don’t conform to the aggressive heterosexual norm then you are supposed to conform to this alternative LGBT norm, you must be one or the other and that’s it.

    I think we had it better when we just put it as “none shall be enslaved by conformity”. Instead of trying to stick labels on people, let’s just accept them as people in all their diversity.

  • Fixing the LGBT issues has a big impact for lots of other people too.

    For example: the best solution to the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the terror-fantasists over trans people using the changing rooms at their local swimming pool is to have individual changing cubicles for all, regardless of gender.

    But while it might be LGBT activists lobbying for that, actually doing it also makes the place much more welcoming and comfortable for people who are cis but have any of a host of body issues that make changing in front of others difficult.

    Actually delivering the changes we need to see on LGBT issues – properly LGBT, not GGGG – has positive impacts right across society.

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