Tag Archives: LGBT

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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Home Office mistreatment of LGBT people must be stopped

One of the low points of this week for me was reading about Aderonke Apata.  She came to the UK after her girlfriend was murdered in Nigeria but this week a Home Office barrister actually stood up in court in public and argued Aderonke couldn’t possibly be a lesbian because she had children and because she wasn’t “part of the social group known as lesbians.” Do people not think about how ridiculous these things sound before they say them out loud? The Independent reports:

But the Home Office argues that Ms Apata could not be considered a lesbian because she has children and has previously been in heterosexual relationships. Ms Apata’s barrister, Abid Mahmood, said these were “highly offensive… stereotypical views of the past”.

He told the hearing: “Some members of the public may have those views but it doesn’t mean a government department should be putting these views forward in evidence.”

The Home Secretary’s barrister, Andrew Bird, argued that Ms Apata was “not part of the social group known as lesbians” but had “indulged in same-sex activity”. He continued: “You can’t be a heterosexual one day and a lesbian the next day. Just as you can’t change your race.”

Holding hands with her wife-to-be Happiness Agboro in court yesterday, Ms Apata, 47, was surrounded by dozens of gay-rights activists.

Homosexuality is punishable by up to 14 years in prison in Nigeria under laws passed in January 2014 and there has been a spike in violence against gay people.

There have long been concerns about the frankly cruel, inhumane and brutal way the Home Office treats LGBT people that pre-dates this government. While Labour were in office, they used to tell people that they’d be fine in their home countries if they were discreet. It is a matter of massive regret to me that the Liberal Democrats in government have not been able to stop the sort of nonsense that took place in that central London courtroom this week or that routinely takes place when LGBT asylum seekers are interviewed. The Home Office playbook reads like a bad 1970s sitcom, but its effects are far from funny.

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International Office promotes women’s and LGBT rights in the Balkans

Belgrade LGBT training

In the run-up to Christmas, the International Office worked with liberal sister-parties in Serbia and Bosnia to promote LGBT and women’s rights across the Balkan region.

In early December, I travelled to Belgrade with Ed Fordham, a leading Lib Dem LGBT campaigner, to meet with our sister-party, the Liberal Democrat Party (LDP). With our support, the LDP has set up a Human Rights Council modelled on the Lib Dem LGBT+ Group, as a champion of the LGBT community in Serbia.

Ed and I held a workshop with representatives of the Human …

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Baroness Lindsay Northover writes…DFID’s approach to LGBT rights

It’s been just over a month since I became our International Development Minister, and I’ve enjoyed every moment since. When she held the role, Lynne Featherstone used to say it was the best job in government and I wholeheartedly agree. Shaping and seeing first-hand how UK aid transforms the lives of the world’s poorest, most vulnerable and most marginalised people is a Lib Dem dream job.

Yesterday I met with Stonewall and the Kaleidoscope Trust to discuss what DFID is doing to address the problems faced by one of the most marginalised groups – LGBT communities in developing countries. Of course I have long drawn on the fantastic Stonewall and Kaleidoscope Trust expertise both for our domestic and international work on equalities, but I was keen to meet them in my new capacity at DFID and learn how we can best work together. Their international work is truly impressive, from educating international development NGOs on LGBT rights and concerns, to engaging global businesses to use their leverage in the fight for equality, to helping to train local campaigners across the world in campaigning and legal techniques.

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Opinion: What’s that you say, Mr Robinson?

Peter robinson by alan in belfastThis weekend,  Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson addressed his party conference for the last time before the General Election and launched his ire at losing his seat in Westminster last time out. Talking of the DUP candidate’s chances for East Belfast next May he said:

There may be other unionists in the field, but they will only serve to divide the pro-union opposition to the flag-lowering, parade-stopping, gay marriage-supporting, pro water-charging, holier-than-thou Alliance Party.

It’s an interesting choice of words, which drew applause from his audience but needs a serious look at the implications of what they mean, for our sister party in Northern Ireland.

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Nick Clegg: I want to hardwire LGBT rights into our entire human rights agenda

Rennie and the Queen's Baton
The Commonwealth Games opens in Glasgow in a couple of hours and we’re promised quite a spectacle. All of Scotland is ready. Except perhaps Edinburgh, where the powers that be have decided, in their wisdom,  to dig up the road outside Waverley Station, causing total chaos.

Politicians have been all over the place in Scotland today, ahead of attending the Opening Ceremony.

Willie Rennie managed to get his hands on the Queen’s Baton (see the photo on the right).

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LDVideo: Nick Clegg – Let’s use Pride in London to celebrate advances in LGBT rights

Pink News reports that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has released a video celebrating Pride in London, saying we should celebrate advances made for LGBT rights. It quotes Nick saying:

“It is quite fitting that on the eve of London Pride weekend we were able to announce the final, crucial steps to making equal marriage a reality. From 10th December those couples who are currently in civil partnerships but want to enter into a marriage instead, will be able to do so.

“It has been a long struggle to get here and many people have worked tirelessly to ensure true marriage equality, but it has been worth it. This weekend we will be able to celebrate the advances our society has made for LGBT people, their friends and families.”

You can watch the video here

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Opinion: Ontario Liberals show real Grit, win a fourth term and make history with the first elected LGBT Head of Government in the Commonwealth!

Ontario Premier Kathleen WynneCongratulations to our cousins in the Ontario Liberal Party in Canada who, overnight, have won a remarkable fourth term of provincial government and, at the same time, have made history with leader Kathleen Wynne becoming the first elected LGBT Head of Government in the Commonwealth!

Going into the election, the Liberals had been in a period of minority government and Wynne had taken over-a year ago from the by-then unpopular Premier Dalton McGuinty.

The party has been in Government in Ontario since 2003 and some pundits had predicted that the opposition Progressive Conservatives (I know, what an oxymoron, right?) would return to Government for the first time in over a decade…but Wynne and her team had other ideas!

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Ryland’s story – and why it’s important

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Opinion: I will not hide…

rainbow flag on white background  : harvey milk plaza, san francisco (2012)Boy, has this been a tough week. This week I suffered some homophobia. This is tough to write.

It came in the form of an e-mail from someone who should know better, but sadly doesn’t.

Someone who believes their faith gives them the right to put pen to paper (or fingers to keypad) and accuse me of being immoral.

I’ve been lucky since I came out as a gay man, in 2011, in that I’ve faced very little homophobia (at least that …

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