Tag Archives: LGBT

LGBT History Month

Today is the start of LGBT History Month, marked in the UK since 2005 to raise the visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, their history, lives and their experiences.

In 2017, there was a clear unifying anniversary of fifty years since the partial decriminalisation for part of the UK of sex between men – enabled by then Home Secretary Roy Jenkins, whose political career took him from Labour minister via SDP leader to the Lib Dem green benches.

2018 has key round-number dates too, though: forty years since the …

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Brian Paddick writes…We need to reassure people that Liberal Democrats remain the most accepting of all the political parties, whoever you are and whatever you believe

I write as a gay Christian about the tightrope between freedom of speech and religion and prejudice and discrimination.

One of the fundamental principles of Liberalism is to allow people to do as they wish provided it does not harm other people.  When it comes to religion, what appears to be a simple enough principle becomes complicated.

Many religions, including Christianity, require its followers to proclaim “the good news” of their particular religion to non-believers.  There are interpretations of many religions that say intimacy between same sex couples is wrong, indeed that any sex outside of a marriage between a man and a woman is sinful.  The question then becomes, does proclaiming such ideas contravene the Liberal harm principle?

There are people who think religion is at least, mumbo jumbo, and at worst, damaging and divisive, and that whatever God, his Son or his prophets may or may not have said, it’s all nonsense, in which case, no harm done.

There are others who do have a faith, who are from sexually and gender diverse groups or who love those from such groups (family members, friends, allies), for whom it really matters what their religion says on these issues and who are seriously harmed by such declarations.

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Why we could all do with reading LGBT Youth Scotland’s guidance on supporting transgender young people

This week, the excellent LGBT Scotland launched a guide offering advice to schools on supporting transgender young people. 

It’s badly needed. Some young transgender people find that their schools support them very well. For others, the story is very different. They find that their school does the minimum that they can legally get away with and no more.

They fail to recognise and protect young people from transphobic bullying. They make a massive issue about things like toilets and changing rooms. I know one transgender young person who was made to use the accessible toilet – not something that they were necessarily unhappy with if it hadn’t been presented in such a hostile way. The problem was that the accessible toilet was kept locked, so they had to ask for the key every time. That was incredibly stigmatising and distressing for that young person.  It’s hardly surprising that their attendance at school was extremely low.

The guidance covers practical, social and cultural issues – from residential trips and name changes to making the whole school an inclusive environment. So why is that important for us? 

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LibLink: Vince Cable on the battle for LGBT+ rights

 

This week Vince Cable marked the 50th Anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality with an article in Pink News. He remembers the social context in which the changes happened.

The period that saw the introduction of the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 left a powerful impression on me. It was around this time that I returned to the UK from Kenya with my now late wife, Olympia. She was Indian, and we arrived in a Britain snarling with the racism of Enoch Powell’s notorious “rivers of blood” speech. Intolerance was not merely tolerated by the state, but enforced by it, with immigrants, women and of course members of the LGBT+ community discriminated against in a way that is hard now to fully understand.

But it was also a time of social change, even ferment. My colleague David Steel piloted an act that legalised abortion that same year. And gay people could finally have sex without fear of prosecution (provided they were both 21 or over, and it was in private).

Looking back, the sheer level of bigotry is shocking. Even many supporters of the reform referred to homosexuality as a “disability”. By 1974, the number of arrests for gay “offences” had actually increased. It was not until 2001, after a defeat in the European Court of Human Rights, that the Labour government was forced to repeal the criminalisation of “homosexual acts”.

 He then looks at the Liberal Democrat record.
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On IDAHoBiT, what is in the Lib Dem manifesto for LGBT+ people?

Today is IDAHoBiT – the international day against homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. Liberal Democrats have a proud tradition of fighting for LGBT+ rights. The 2017 manifesto, published today, aims to go further than any other party is furthering LGBT+ rights. However, because we Lib Dems believe that LGBT+ rights are human rights, a lot of the LGBT+ content in the manifesto is spread out in the various policy topic areas the manifesto covers. While I like this, because it means that LGBT+ rights are integral to our policies, not tacked on as an afterthought, it can make things easy to miss. In lieu of a manifesto index, therefore, I am going to draw it all together in one place, starting at the beginning:

  1. Our young people are bright, creative and want a world that is clean and green and that the rest of us haven’t wrecked. They want jobs, good health and the chance to choose who they love and how they live– Introduction by Tim Farron, p7, emphasis mine.
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There, he’s said it. You can leave him alone now

So, we’re teetering on the edge of a massive Tory hard Brexit cliff. The UK is in danger of breaking up because of the Tory preoccupation with finding the bumpiest, riskiest way out of the European Union. Donald Trump has his finger on the nuclear button and North Korea is deliberately winding him up.

Yet our media gets all obsessed about whether a man with a good track record on LGBT rights thinks gay sex is a sin. Today, Tim put the matter finally beyond doubt in an interview with the BBC.  

He said:

“I don’t believe that gay sex is a sin,” he said.

“I take the view though that as a political leader, my job is not to pontificate on theological matters.”

Mr Farron said that with a general election campaign under way, it was important to be talking about “big issues” like health and social care and Brexit.

“I am quite careful about how I talk about my faith. I do not bang on about it, I do not make a secret out of it,” he said.

“On reflection, it makes sense to actually answer this direct question since it’s become an issue.”

He also said the Lib Dems had “undoubtedly the best record” on gay rights out of all political parties.

Personally, I’d rather politicians kept their traps shut about what was sinful and what is not. So, clearly, does Tim, yet this whole thing was clearly not going to go away until he made a definitive statement. I feel more than a little bit livid that someone with a fantastic record on LGBT equality has been pushed like this. Nobody has asked Theresa May the same question, nor any of the other Christian MPs with much worse voting records.

Writing sensible stuff about Lib Dems in right wing publications once is quite incredible, twice in two days seems almost reckless, but  journalist Stephen Daisley has done exactly that. There was yesterday’s Scottish Daily Mail article saying that the Lib Dems must be taken seriously and now he’s written about what he calls the cruel hounding of Tim Farron for the Spectator.

Journalists feel no misgivings about doing just that to Tim Farron because they suspect him of holding a view they deem bigoted and because although he is a Lib Dem he is not a member of a favoured minority. Their transgression is not political correctness but hypocrisy and the impotent obsessions of identity politics. If we are to bring a theological critique to the campaign trail, a man who seldom talks publicly about his faith seems an odd target when the Prime Minister speaks so openly about hers. How does Tory policy on refugees square with Isaiah 1:17? Or their welfare reforms with Proverbs 22:16 and 22:22?

Except that would look priggish and doesn’t have social media ‘shareability’. Forgive them, Tim Farron, they know exactly what they do.

This was some of the reaction on Twitter:

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The irony behind tonight’s Corbyn media firestorm

By Jeremy Corbyn’s standards, it was actually quite a good speech. Pink News has the video here. He was engaged, clearly speaking from the heart. He talked about having saved a Gay Centre from attack by National Front types decades before gay rights became fashionable. And then, in true Corbyn fashion, he has to go and ruin it all by concluding:

Our defence of you is a defence of all of humanity and the right of people to practise the life they want to practise, rather than be criminalised, brutalised and murdered, simply because they chose to be gay, they chose to be lesbian, they were LGBT in any form

Obviously, being gay isn’t some kind of lifestyle choice. You don’t choose it any more than you choose your eye pr skin colour or whether you are right or left handed. It is how you are born. Everything about Jeremy Corbyn’s voting record on LGBT issues over the years suggests he knows that and that he genuinely mis-spoke tonight. Let’s face it, it’s not the first time he’s snatched disaster from the jaws of opportunity.

He should be aware that any inference that your sexual orientation or gender identity is a choice plays into the hands of those who wish to roll back the decades of progress. It is also deeply upsetting to LGBT people.

It’s even more upsetting when it’s being gleefully amplified all over the place by the right wing press and Tory LGBT groups.

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Tim Farron welcomes LGBT History Month

February is LGBT History Month, a chance to celebrate those campaigners who have made such a  difference for LGBT rights and a chance to remember all those who suffered as a result of repressive attitudes and laws. When I was growing up, I was heartbroken to hear accounts of long-term partners being frozen out of hospital visiting or funeral arrangements by family members who didn’t recognise their relationship. You could live with someone for decades and have no rights when they were ill or when they died.

It looks as though the US may be about to enter a period when these hard-won rights are cast aside and we’ll have new examples of the effects of harsh and cruel intolerance. There are numerous examples of repressive regimes where LGBT people face death or imprisonment. In this country, hate crime is on the increase. The road to equality across the world is still being built and it’s important that we all do our bit to help.

I am constantly awestruck at the courage of some of my friends, who took risks when same sex sexual activity was still illegal (officially until 1980 in Scotland) to support others and to lay the foundations for the much more welcoming environment we have today. Scotland is one of the best places in the world to be LGBT these days and it’s due to people like my friend Gregan Crawford, who is now Edinburgh Lib Dems’ Master of All Things Connect (seriously, he makes the best delivery runs EVER).

Anyway, here is his account of an International Gay Rights Congress which took place in Edinburgh in 1974 which ended up with 2000 people marching on the BBC:

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Maria Munir chosen as Girls’ Champion for BBC’s 100 Women

Lib Dem member Maria Munir, from Watford, won widespread global respect and admiration when they came out as non binary to President Obama at a town hall meeting in April this year. Let’s remind ourselves of that moment:

They spoke to the BBC here about their experience:

I just felt this moment of euphoria that finally I would be able to raise and highlight the issue that non-binary transgender people face.

If anyone has the power to change things for people like myself across the world, it is President Obama.”

Maria said their family history made the situation even more poignant.

“I started to feel the tears well up. My parents are immigrants. My granddad did manual labour in Pakistan. My dad worked as a manual labourer in Saudi Arabia before coming here to start a business with literally nothing.
“For me, aged 20, to be sat in front of the President of the United States, leader of the free world, to be able to pitch to him social action…

Maria has now been named as one of eight Girls’ Champion as part of the BBC’s 100 Women series. They will be able to use their voice to highlight issues that affect girls and non binary and transgender people.

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Marking the Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender Day of RemembranceNovember 20th each year is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. It’s the day when we honour those who have lost their lives through transphobic violence. The list of those who have been murdered for being who they are is so harrowing to read.

Nobody should face fear, intimidation, discrimination and violence because of who they are. As the forces of intolerance appear to have the upper hand in politics in too many places, those of us who believe in freedom, diversity and equality have our work cut out for us.

This is a day to remember those who have died but also to re-affirm our own commitment to not put up with a world where this sort of thing happens. It isn’t going to become a more tolerant place by itself. We have to make it happen, one person at a time, by questioning prejudice whenever we see it, whether it’s round the dining room table with our grandparents, in the pub, at work or in the party.

LGBT+ Lib Dems has statements from Lorely Burt and LGBT+ secretary Zoe O’Connell, who is one of the few transgender people to have stood for Parliament.

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London’s LGBT Vigil to be sung and sung loudly

If it didn’t exist would you create it? Well based on last night, the answer for the London Gay Men’s Chorus was a resounding Yes.

As thousands of members of the LGBT community poured into Soho, supported by friends, family and a host of straight allies – everyone was very uncertain. The nervousness was palpable with no-one clear what was going to happen. There were a few attempts to get a political chant going, but the crowd was more contemplative. As the hour of 7pm approached there was a hanging sense of expectation.

And sure enough as 7pm there was a raft of whistle blowing then then the cloak of silence fell over everyone – Soho is said to be the only identifiable district in London which has no buses through it and when the silence fell you could hear a pin drop.

The silence was held for what seemed to be an age and the tension was real and then slowly, quietly and determinedly the joyous noise gathered pace and rose up. Here was London Gay Men’s Chorus singing ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’. Conducted by the deeply impressive Simon Sharp the Chorus absolutely delivered. Clad in their distinctive blue t-shirts this community chorus – which operates an open access policy – totally filled the yawning void of emotion, anger and optimism. The men next to me were openly crying, holding each other tight. It was a wave of song, of love and of gratitude: a surge of shared affinity for the heartache being witnessed in Orlando.

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Horror in Orlando

Today I’m struggling to find the words to come to terms with what has happened in Orlando. Fifty people have been slaughtered solely for being who they are. Every terrorist attack is both an outrage and a multitude of personal tragedies but for all LGBTQ people this attack at the heart of our  community is particularly terrifying.

Throughout our history as a community LGBTQ people have faced violence and terror but there was a prevailing attitude that to be LGBTQ in Western Europe or North America was becoming safer, more accepted. This horrendous attack is a reminder that for some people, …

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Jonny Oates tells House of Lords about his experience of depression

In a speech to the House of Lords yesterday, Liberal Democrat peer Jonny Oates talked about his experience of depression as a young man.

This experience was not unrelated to the times in which he was growing up. As a young gay man, having the government legislate against him was not easy to deal with. He also suggests that the churches should reflect on the impact they can have on people’s mental health, referring to Archbishop Michael Ramsey who was Archbishop of Canterbury at the time homosexuality was legalised and who was supportive of that change in the law.

Here is the speech in full:

My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to take part in this important debate on the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health initiated by my noble friend Lady Brinton. As my noble friend said, mental health is a topic which touches almost everyone in this country, whether through direct personal experience or through families and friends who have suffered from mental ill-health.

For much of the time when I was growing up, it was pretty much a taboo subject. Few people talked openly about mental illness; it was too often a personal burden not to be shared, understood or tackled but to be hidden away even from those closest to one. In recent years there has been a welcome shift in our attitudes, and I pay tribute to the mental health charities and the many activists and campaigners, such as Alastair Campbell, who have helped break down taboos and get mental health on the agenda, but I also pay a real and heartfelt tribute to Norman Lamb in particular who, as a Health Minister in the previous Government, strongly supported by the then Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, did so much to push the issue of mental health right up the government agenda, placing mental health literally on the front page of the Liberal Democrat manifesto.

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We should be ashamed of UK inaction on refugee crisis

David Trett refugees

On a bleak windswept desolate morning in mid February, I walked through puddles of mud whilst alongside me a community of refugees, desperate to re-start their lives, remain near the French /UK border hoping to escape the situation and get to the UK, or some other place of sanctuary. I visited along with my Lib Dem colleague Councillor David Chalmers. I’m left wondering what will become to all those that I met this weekend.

I believe in showing humanity, care and love for our fellow citizens wherever they come from in the world, especially those escaping from lives of persecution, violence and discrimination. We, as a country, should be utterly ashamed of ourselves, as should the French authorities, for allowing a situation to develop only 20-25 minutes by travel from our shore, where a group of harmless, fear stricken people are left looking for sanctuary.

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Let’s celebrate LGBT history month

LGBT history monthLGBT History Month is a wonderful opportunity for us all to celebrate LGBT’s contribution to society and promote a more equal and diverse society which benefits us all.

The Liberal Democrats have been steadfast in campaigning for LGBT equality and inclusion working with a variety of organisations to make sure that a multiplicity of voices are heard and considered in Westmister and beyond.

The last Parliament marked a historic step in challenging the status quo. The Equal Marriage Act driven by the Liberal Democrats in Government was celebrated up and down the country but it is not always just the big things that count. We have been calling for proper sex ed in schools, an end to discrimination against transgender individuals by the state and better representation of LGBT individuals in public life. This change will not come overnight but I am certain that with a coalition of organisations, activists, politicians and public personalities all working together with common purpose change will come.

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The terrifying consequences of witch-hunts

ScandalNow that, one by one, European countries are shifting the law for allow for same-sex marriage – the spotlight now turns on Italy where mass demonstrations have taken place in support of the idea – it is  worth thinking about why homosexuality was criminalised in the first place.

We have spent so much time celebrating the decision in 1967 to repeal laws which did so, that we have perhaps forgotten to look a little further back to see how they came onto the statute book in the first place (sodomy had been a crime for some centuries before).

The story goes back to the Phoenix Park murders of 1882, when republican terrorists stabbed the Irish Secretary to death – accidentally, as it turned out: he happened to be walking with the intended victim.

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Time is ripe for Church of England disestablishment

 

Now that the Anglican Communion has ruled that the US Episcopalian Church will not be able to take part in its decision making for three years’ following their support for same sex marriage and their appointment of a gay bishop in 2003, it is time for us to put Church of England disestablishment back on the agenda.

Like many in the party, I had misgivings about Tim Farron’s Christian faith when he was elected leader. As a liberal Christian who campaigns for same sex marriage within church, I perceived Tim to be a conservative Christian that would be opposed to this. However, the controversy about Tim’s interview with Cathy Newman last year has rather changed my mind on this, especially when I read his May 2015 interview in Pink News. Tim called for the disestablishment of the CofE in this interview, and I think that we should make this official policy to finally dispel the view that his Christianity is a problem for his leadership. Having had a closer look at Tim Farron’s reasons for his voting record on same sex marriage, I think the problem is not that he’s a fundamentalist Christian, but that he’s a fundamentalist Liberal.

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Liberal Democrats react to Transgender Equality Report

Today’s publication of the Transgender Equality Report by the Commons Women and Equality Committee should lead to some big improvements to services and better rights for transgender people. It has some useful recommendations around health services – ensuring, for example, that GPs have sufficient training in how they should treat transgender people. The Committee certainly seems to have listened to many of the concerns put to them.

Their approach to the spousal veto question was more cautious than I would have liked. They basically said that it needed more consideration but didn’t recommend doing away with it, even though they accepted that a spouse could stand in the way of a transgender person getting their legal recognition. However, if the law is changed to abolish that cumbersome process, as the Committee. This is a big step forward:

In place of the present medicalised, quasi-judicial application process, an administrative process must be developed, centred on the wishes of the individual applicant, rather than on intensive analysis by doctors and lawyers.

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The Commonwealth is working on LGBT issues

Most people wouldn’t know that the large biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) just took place in Malta. The Telegraph made a quip about the ‘Dictators Club’, the Daily Mail twisted some policy announcements. The Independent had bits of coverage. The Guardian, surprisingly, stuck to rewording Government press releases.

Tim Farron also intervened on the subject of LGBT rights. Paraphrasing: he said that the Government should be raising LGBT rights as an issue using its position of strength in the Commonwealth. This statement got coverage – the point was well landed! But when you think for a moment, you realise the intervention was wrong.

LGBT rights were actually a major topic. The Commonwealth People’s Forum, the Civil Society part of CHOGM, made part of its post-Forum Declaration on LGBT rights. The Commonwealth Secretary General reprimand to leaders in his pre-CHOGM speech, and a quick check of Hansard, shows that Baroness Verma announced weeks ago she would chair a CHOGM discussion on LGBT rights.

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Liz Barker questions Government on transgender prisoners after death of Vicky Thompson

Last week, transgender woman Vicky Thompson died in the men’s prison where she had been taken to serve her sentence. Ministry of Justice policy is to put trans prisoners in the gender they live as if they have a Gender Recognition Certificate. Obtaining a GRC can be a costly, difficult, bureaucratic process.

Liz Barker outlined some of the issues in an article for the Huffington Post:

In Tara’s case, she was put in a prison with 600 men, many of whom had committed violent offences and was eventually moved after a campaign which highlighted the risk to her safety.

Jonathan Marks, my colleague in the House of Lords and a highly respected barrister, raised this issue in Parliament following the case of Tara Hudson. He pushed the Government to make urgent changes to how they handle trans prisoners, calling for full and careful thought to be given to allocation before sentence rather than after placement. A policy that makes perfect sense.

I am deeply concerned that this wasn’t already common practice, but it is utterly shocking that a few short weeks after Tara’s case came to the public’s attention, action wasn’t taken to urgently review Vicky’s case too. There should now be an urgent review on a case-by-case basis for every trans prisoner in the prison estate to assess their situation

The Minister’s answer was not much more than waffle.

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Farron welcomes gay blood ban review

Tim Farron has welcomed a review in the rules for blood donation which currently stop gay men from giving blood within a year of being sexually active.

He said:

I very much welcome the review of what I believe are the discriminatory rules on blood donation in the UK. In 2015 I cannot see why we can’t support an evidence based approach.

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Jim Hume questions Scottish Government on gender identity clinic waiting times

If you are a young transgender person still at school, struggling to come to terms with your gender identity, you need specialised help pretty quickly. You should not have to wait a minimum of 7 months to see a specialist. If you are older, you should not be told that the waiting list is a year.

Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume has highlighted this as another area in which the Scottish Government is failing to meet its 18 week target for referrals. This one will take a lot of thinking about as there are so few specialists in the gender identity field. They will have to come up with some long term plans to recruit and train more.

Kaleidoscot reports on Jim’s call for the Scottish Health Secretary to review provision for transgender people:

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Ed Fordham’s Letter from Belgrade

I am sitting in a hotel here in Belgrade eating my breakfast. It’s Serbia so meat is the dominant feature.

But I have just walked around the corner of the block to the hotel where they are issueing the accreditation to volunteers stewards who are marshalling the Pride March today and in the course of that short journey I have passed over 200 riot police (I stopped counting). The roads are closed and the streets ghostly quiet.

I am fairly confident here and know Serbia pretty well – but I found myself nervous, uncertain and even tearful as I walked through the streets. I was clutching my phone, hiding my camera and very mindful that as best I try I probably look like a visitor.

In three hours I will meet other friends who are LGBT activists in the Human Rights Council of the Liberal Democrat Party of Serbia whom I will march with. In London, the UK, much of Europe we can be confident of who we are and who we love. Here people, friends, folks I know, are fighting, literally, for the right to exist and be themselves.

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A trio of Lib Dem Lords stand up for LGBT+ Asylum seekers

It was Home Office questions in the House of Lords this week. Three Liberal Democrat peers asked questions about the treatment of LGBT+ people in the asylum system and abroad which has to date been pretty awful. The first was Paul Scriven who asked whether the recommendations to change the disgraceful way LGBT+ people seeking asylum in this country are treated. Here’s the exchange in full:

Lord Scriven (LD): To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they plan to implement the recommendations in the report by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration of March–June 2014 regarding the handling of asylum claims made on the grounds of sexual orientation, and if so, when.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Lord Bates) (Con): My Lords, the Home Office has been actively working to implement the recommendations. An updated asylum instruction considering sexual identity issues in the asylum claim has been issued. Approved training for staff is under development. These will ensure the sensitive and effective exploration of asylum claims based on sexuality. The Home Office is conducting “second pair of eyes” checks on all such claims to ensure the consistent recording of cases and more accurate data.

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Opinion: A moment of acceptance

In the election campaign I was touched, but not surprised, to see Sal Brinton post a link on facebook to an interview with Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett where he spoke of his experiences growing up gay, and self-identifying as an HIV+ parliamentary candidate. My suspicion was that many would encourage someone in Adrian’s position to “be discreet”: but seeing him being so open and the party President support him so clearly made me proud to be a liberal democrat.

From a gay perspective, it’s been encouraging in the present leadership election to see doubts over Tim’s support for LGBT people raised as a cause for concern, and to see him act quickly to counter them.

Recently I had a very positive surprise when I read an article picking up on Norman Lamb’s piece in Pink News where he moved the whole debate on a stage by saying:

until every young person is proud of who they are, who they find attractive and who they love, our fight will continue.

The shift feels significant: from accepting a minority (which keeps them as a minority whose acceptance is to be fought for) and something genuine. It calls to mind the slogan of the LGBT-majority Free Community Church in Singapore: “welcome home”

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Praise for Lynne Featherstone from the newly-married Iain Dale

LBC Presenter, publisher and blogger Iain Dale and his husband John Simmons have recently converted their civil partnership to a marriage.

Iain wrote about the day they got married here.

He had some pretty fulsome praise for Lynne Featherstone, the Liberal Democrat minister who made it happen.

Finally, when we were sitting in the register office going through the paperwork I had a moment when I thought of Lynne Featherstone. Lynne was the LibDem Home Office minister who, with the backing of Theresa May and David Cameron brought in the Equal Marriage Act. She lost her seat at the election, but she will always be able to look back and think that this was a real political achievement. Just as Roy Jenkins will be remembered for decriminalising homosexuality, she will forever be associated with equal marriage. I can think of worse political legacies. Most ministers go through their careers achieving very little. She set out to do something and had the political courage and nouse to see it through.

Cheers Lynne.

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Opinion: Northern Ireland and marriage equality

On Friday the people of Ireland voted on marriage equality in their referendum. The results on Saturday showed that 1,201,607 people voted Yes/Tá to 734,300 voting No/Níl making the result 62.1% to 37.9% in favour. Only one of the 43 constituencies, Roscommon – South Leitrim, voted no but only by a margin of 1,029 votes and barely nibbled into the overall trend of the votes that were being announced. The other forty-two constituencies had all by either a small (only 33 votes in Donegal South West) to a large (27,959 in Dublin South) margin voted yes. Overall 1,201,607 people voted Yes/Tá to 734,300 voting No/Níl 62.1% to 37.9%.

But the other question is where does that leave Northern Ireland, which is now the largest region of the British Isles that does not have equal marriage in any shape or form allowing people of the same-sex to marry?

Firstly if we look at the Northern Ireland Act 1998 it recognises that the people of Northern Ireland can identify as British or Irish or both. This is key now to moving forward. Then from the same piece of legislation we also note that:

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What I did for IDAHOBiT

I know that some of you will know exactly what I’m talking about and others will be scratching their heads wondering. Today, 17th May, is what used to be called IDAHO Day, the International Day against homophobia. It’s now known in various ways, IDAHOT or the one I prefer IDAHOBiT, which explicitly mentions biphobia and transphobia, too.

This is the day when we celebrate those across the world who are doing their bit in their communities to make life better for lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex and transgender people. In the UK that is relatively easy. In many countries, though, you take your life in your hands. In much of the world, homosexuality remains illegal and is punishable by long-term imprisonment or even death. Being transgender puts you at much greater risk of violence or sexual abuse or murder.

We went into Edinburgh today to see an exhibition by South African social justice activist and artist Gabrielle Le Roux, Proudly African and Transgender, which was hosted in the city’s Arts Centre by the Equality Network and the Scottish Transgender Alliance. Gabrielle was there to take us through her work and tell us how it came into being. In 2008, there was a ground-breaking gathering of transgender activists from across Africa. She painted portraits of ten of the attendees. They also wrote messages on the portraits. Julius from Uganda said:

It’s been a difficult journey but one I don’t regret taking because I can only be who I am – a unique creation

Quite a few of the participants were not able to continue living in their home countries. It wasn’t safe for Flavia to return to Burundi and she has had to seek refuge in South Africa.

Accompanying each picture is a typed A4 sheet where the activists tell their stories – and those stories are updated, making, as Le Roux said, the exhibition dynamic. It was really fantastic to have the artist there, though, telling us little anecdotes about each person.

You can look at all the pictures online here. 

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Nick Clegg replies to Coalition for Marriage with pithy tweet

 

And here’s a reminder of two very happy young men who were definitely not forced to get married…

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LibLink: Jo Swinson: Why the Government is spending £2 million to tackle bullying

This week, Lib Dem Equalities Minister Jo Swinson announced the eight organisations who will receive £2 million of government money to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. To accompany that announcement, she wrote an article for Pink News explaining why this money is needed:

Earlier this year singer-songwriter Sam Smith publicly came out and talked openly about being bullied at school. Denying he was gay made the bullying worse and the thing he most hated was how his friends and family heard the names he was called. Fortunately he’s gone on to have a multi-million album selling, Grammy winning career so I think we know who has had the last laugh.

But hindsight is a wonderful thing; bullying can take a terrible toll, have a devastating effect on a young person’s education, isolate them from their peers and damage their self-esteem for life.

How widespread is the problem?

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