Opinion: Liberal Democrats should show their Pride

Every year around the country dozens of events are held to celebrate lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual people. From huge parades in Manchester and London to the smaller events in Swindon and Stoke, the Liberal Democrats should be there.

Our commitment to equality goes back decades. The Liberals fought two general elections with gay rights policies in the manifesto before the Sexual Offences Act 1967, and we have continued to make LGBT equality a manifesto commitment. Back in the 80s and 90s the Lib Dems set the progressive agenda on equality, advocating an equal age of consent and opposing Section 28. We fought for equality while the Tories blocked lesbian and gay rights measures, and while Labour avoided rocking their first-term boat by ignoring LGBT issues.

The pink vote is a valuable one, and the Lib Dems poll twice as highly in the LGBT communities than our national average. Unfortunately the other parties have cottoned on to this, and are targeting these groups with the kinds of financial resources that are usually beyond our reach. The Tories are even presenting themselves as the “natural party” for gay voters, despite allying with homophobes in Europe.

The best way to oppose this cynical assault on our natural territory is, as ever, from the grass roots. Pride festivals around the country have spaces for community organisations, and we should be there. Like any community festival, Prides are a great place for Liberal Democrats to show our work all year round for local people, as well as our commitment to equality and fairness at every level of society.

DELGA is the Liberal Democrat organisation for LGBT equality. We represent the needs of LGBT people to the party, propose policy such as our recent conference motion on LGBT asylum seekers, and support our LGBT candidates through the Out To Win network. We also work with local parties to promote the Liberal Democrats at Pride festivals and related events. DELGA makes efforts to contact local parties ahead of their Prides and encourage them to attend. We provide advice and materials for your Pride stall, and can promote it to local DELGA members online and in our newsletters.

There’s a list of 2009 Pride dates on DELGA’s website, along with contact details for most of them. We’ve had a great Lib Dem presence at Birmingham Pride recently, and have Sheffield coming up. We would ideally see the Lib Dems out at every one of these events. We need people at the grass roots prepared to organise Pride stalls, to work with us and their local parties. If you’d like to volunteer to organise or help out at a Pride stall, please get in touch with the relevant address, and make sure you raise it with your local party.

We’ve seen homophobic racists elected to the European Parliament; we need to make sure we can reach out to the country’s LGBT communities and give them a message of hope, fairness and freedom.

* Dave Page is a council candidate in Manchester, and DELGA’s Pride officer. He can be reached on [email protected] and would like you to support DELGA’s work with a membership subscription.

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13 Comments

  • TheBigotBasher, could you provide me with details of these “number of similar local campaigns since”?

    Certainly the infamous “straight choice” campaign was regrettable, and something for which Simon Hughes has apologised. Despite that, I’m still reasonably convinced that the Liberal Democrats are the most rainbow friendly of parties at local level, and would welcome any evidence to the contrary.

  • Noisy Tappet 10th Jun '09 - 9:25pm

    Getting bogged down in this sort of thing will never win LibDems the breakthrough they need. Keep the party’s name out of it.

  • Andrew, just so you know – TransLondon decided to attend Pride under protest.

    The Lib Dems listened to their suggestions and ran a petition on our stall calling on London Pride to consult more with community organisations representing trans, bi and lesbian people.

  • The Bermondsey thing is caught in time, and predates the foundation of the LDs. Labour supporters trot it out along with their other tedious ‘lib crime’ shibboleths from time to time, but forget that Peter Tatchell would have had an uncomfortable reception in most Labour heartlands at that time too. Horrible to think of it now, but that’s how it was.
    I think going to events, and sending messages of support (including to religious minorities at key dates in their calendars) does extend a sense of welcome and inclusion, and we fall into belittling these celebrations of diversity as ‘tokenistic’ to our own detriment.

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