Tag Archives: liz barker

LIb Dem Lords speak out on conversion therapy

Last week, Lorely Burt’s private members bill aimed at outlawing conversion therapy practices passed its first stage in the House of Lords.

This post highlights the speeches in support of the Bill made by Lib Dem peers, but there were many others made by people like Ruth Hunt, Michael Cashman and Helena Kennedy which are worth reading.

This post is a long one, but it is worth reading to understand why this measure is necessary.

Lorely explained in her opening remarks that conversion therapy s:

any practice with the predetermined purpose of changing or suppressing a person’s expression of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Conversion therapy is barbaric, cruel and harmful.

Listening to the debate, I felt I was back in the 80s and 90s. I remember then being chilled to the bone when I heard prejudice against gay people. That still exists, but the real venom these days is directed at trans people. And it’s quite interesting that some of the opposition now comes from the same people who opposed any liberalisation for gay people then. Our job as liberals is to protect these vulnerable groups from that prejudice, discrimination and from the cruelty of those who try to convince them that it is wrong or them to be who they are.

Here are some of the highlights of Lib Dem members’ contributions. You can read the whole debate here.

“My Bill will not tell people what to think or what to say” – Lorely Burt

There are many people—particularly young people—who may be wondering about themselves. It is not always straightforward to understand your sexuality or gender identity, and grappling with these topics can be confusing and even distressing. What these people need is not a cure, but space—and support—to work things out. This may take the form of speaking with a trusted adult, like a mentor or counsellor, to explore their own feelings in a non-judgmental way.

However, the difference between that and conversion therapy is that the latter has a predetermined goal to change that person. I want to make it clear: my Bill will not criminalise these sorts of open conversations in any way, nor will it tell people what to think or what to say. Freedom of speech and religious freedom are important cornerstones of any liberal society. As a Liberal Democrat, I have always championed these values, and the last thing I would want to do is to unduly curb anybody else’s rights. Noble Lords are free to say what they believe: the rules on free speech are the same here as anywhere else in British law. Noble Lords are entitled to express an opinion, just not to coerce somebody else into agreeing with them and changing their behaviour as a result.

“Hold that child safe until they find their own way forward without bias, prejudice and pre conceived rights and wrongs” – Lynne Featherstone

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10 years since Same Sex Marriage Act

One of the Lib Dems’ major achievements in coalition was giving same sex couples the right to marry. Today, it’s 10 years since the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 received royal assent. It would be another eight and a half months before the first marriages took place in England and Wales. Scotland would pass its own legislation on 4 February 2014.

Each of the Parliamentary stages saw mostly bright and cheerful vigils outside. The picture comes from the second reading in the Lords on 3rd June.

Brightness, positivity and reasonableness were the …

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Liz Barker highlights attacks on women’s rights worldwide

This week, Liz Barker spoke in the International Women’s Day debate in the Lords. She highlighted the orchestrated attacks on women’s rights worldwide in all its forms. She particularly focused on the treatment of trans women. She added that an attack on the rights of one group of women is an attack on the rights of all women.

She also criticised the Government’s reduction in international aid and the impact that has on things like HIV research – and which could leave us unprepared for future pandemics.

Finally she talked about women’s health care, in particular the under-reporting of mental health, particularly if they have learning difficulties or autism. And she cited some very troubling data around the availability of contraception.

Here is her speech in full.

My Lords, I too wish to pay tribute to Baroness Boothroyd. Because of the proximity of our offices, we often used to bump into each other in the lift. One day I complimented her on one of her fabulous outfits—she was always beautifully turned out—and in that unmistakeable voice she said, “give it brass and go big.” I have always thought that I will for ever hold that as my phrase: give it brass, go big.

The theme of today’s International Women’s Day is “Embrace Equity”. It is a very good phrase, as the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, has just said, because it carries within it the implication that we are, as women, diverse—very diverse. Women have different life experiences, different economic circumstances and all sorts of differences between us, yet we have common aspirations for safety, health, autonomy and prosperity. It is important to bear that in mind as we have this debate, because it takes place against the background of a campaign originated and orchestrated by Christian nationalists in the United States, Europe and across Russia, which is very definitely about curbing the aspirations and autonomy of all women.

In the United States and places like Poland and Hungary the focus is on anti-abortion activities. In Africa, the focus is against equality and LGBT rights. In the US and UK, the key focus of this campaign is anti-gender. We are beginning as we go through, to see a greater emphasis on unpicking this campaign and understanding the motivations behind it. The Council of Europe, for example, in 2022 produced a thematic report on legal gender recognition in Europe, which began to show what this campaign is about. Ultimately, it is about the rolling back of human rights and the destruction of human rights legislation and the organisations which are there to protect and promote it. That is a key concern for all women because human right lies at the basis of our equality and equity.

In the UK we know that there is a daily campaign against trans women. We see it day after day in our media. It is a campaign that seeks to pit women against women. It portrays trans women as a significant and systemic threat to other women. I have to say that, after six years, it is a campaign that has yet to provide evidence of that, and it is yet to win significant approval. That is not to say that some politicians have not been taken in by this and have been ever ready to use it to their political advantage. I have to say today that some of us will always reject playing with human rights, because if you play with the human rights of some people, you play with the human rights of all, and if you jeopardise the rights of some women, you jeopardise the rights of all. I hope that politicians in this country will look again at some of the aspects of this campaign and will desist in the demonisation of a very small minority of people in this country. They are at the moment under attack and very frightened, and today, on International Women’s Day, it is important to give them some hope and solidarity.

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Liz Barker named in Pink News list

We are in the middle of Lesbian Visibility Week, and to celebrate it Pink News has produced a list of “19 incredible lesbians who’re loud, proud and making the world a better place“.

And alongside the likes of Billie-Jean King, Mhairi Black, and Mary Trump we can find our own Lib Dem peer Liz Barker. The citation is:

Baroness Elizabeth Barker. Lesbian peer and Albert Kennedy Trust ambassador who recently spoke out in the UK’s House of Lords in defence of an inclusive maternity bill.

Liz is our LGBT spokesperosn in the Lords and Spokesperson for the Voluntary Sector. According to the Lib Dem website:

Liz runs a small consultancy which provides strategic business development support to charities, social enterprises and statutory authorities. Liz has particular interest in developing best practice in governance and relationships between third sector organisations and businesses.

Congratulations to Liz and to all lesbian Lib Dems who are out and proud.

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Liz Barker’s tribute to Paddy Ashdown

In a House of Lords debate on the Western Balkans this week, Baroness Liz Barker paid tribute to Paddy Ashdown:

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, for this debate, which, sadly, is timely and appropriate. I thank her for giving me the opportunity to tell your Lordships’ House about an event that took place in Sarajevo on 27 December. Joseph Ingram wrote a report of it and he said this. Citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina held a spontaneous commemorative service in the “iconic, reconstructed city hall”. The hall was,

“filled to capacity, and despite being nationally televised, had people lined up outside trying to be part of it. The ‘Mothers of Srebrenica’, a group that represents survivors of the most horrific massacre of innocent civilians on European soil since World War Two, had announced that they too intend to honour the work of this extraordinary human being”.

The event was dedicated to one man. He was born in India. He grew up as a lad in Northern Ireland. He left school, joined the marines and became a captain, a diplomat and spy. Then he gave up everything and, after a period on the dole, went on to become a youth worker and eventually the gallant MP for Yeovil. In this House, we knew him as Lord Ashdown of Norton-sub-Hamdon, but he was always Paddy.

He had a wide range of interests. He had forgotten more languages than most of us have ever learned. He could quote the poetry of John Donne at will. He was an informed and passionate supporter of activists for democracy in Hong Kong, when nobody else took any notice, and he packed more achievements into a lifetime than most of us could imagine, but he was always first to admit that the source of his great strength was Jane. In public she was a quiet figure, but to those of us who know her she is a charming, funny and formidable woman.

I will give you one vignette which sums up both of them. Like all good leaders, Paddy used to invite people in to advise him, talk to him and argue with him. In 1992 I was one of the small group. Early one morning, he posed us the question: should I go to Bosnia? We went round the room and we all said no. We gave him all sorts of reasons why it was a really bad idea, and I left the meeting certain of only one thing. He was going to go. We all saw the TV pictures recently, but what we did not know until we read his autobiography was that he had come under fire, as the noble Baroness, Lady Helic, told us. But he went because he saw a group of people being treated unjustly, and he thought that he could and should do something.

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21 November 2018 – today’s press releases

Having completed another meeting of the Federal International Relations Committee, featuring an exploration of the distant reaches of Article 7 of the Federal Constitution of the Party, your editor’s mind turns to press releases…

  • Moran: Gov must recognise state of Palestine
  • Cable: Prokopchuk’s Interpol position is still ‘an insult to the victims of the Salisbury attack’
  • Sanctions needed to get Matthew Hedges home
  • Davey: PM must publish immigration white paper now
  • Lib Dems announce Siobhan Benita as London Mayoral candidate
  • (covered separately here)

  • Lib Dems lead fight to protect vulnerable people in care
  • Davey: Something going very wrong in energy market

Moran: Gov must recognise state of Palestine

Liberal …

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LibLink: Liz Barker: We have a crisis in our charity sector

Writing for Politics Home about her Lords question on the issues facing charities at the moment, Liz Barker said that Oxfam did not deserve the “monitoring” it was getting at the moment as it had taken action to deal with the unacceptable and inexcusable behaviour of a small number of its members of staff.

The crisis to which she refers, though, isn’t the one you think.

She highlighted failings in the Charity Commission, most notably its senior people being too close to Government and without enough knowledge of the sector:

One might have expected the Charity Commission to know that a charity’s most valuable asset is its reputation and to understand that, whilst Oxfam reported that it was dealing with the matter, the organisation might have been advised by lawyers to keep public statements to a minimum. The events for which Oxfam is now being berated coincided with a period when the Charity Commission’s funding was greatly reduced and its Chair, who knew nothing about charities or regulation, was wont to please the politicians who appointed him, by making sweeping  statements about charities which were full of criticism and short on evidence.

The Charity Commission board is appointed by government and with the imminent appointment of Baroness Stowell, who like her predecessor has no knowledge of charities, it appears to be a grace and favour appointment for people close to government.  This is a worrying development.

She highlighted another problem with the Charity Commission’s plans:

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Lib Dems “most sweary peers in House of Lords”

Something to amuse you on a dark January evening from iNews:

Our Lib Dem Lords make six out of the top ten profane peers

Six of the top 10 “sweary peers” are Lib Dems, with Baroness Sarah Ludford leading the pack with 51 profanities in 2017. It’s a pretty admirable feat given that peers only managed to score 287 swears between them across the whole year.

They have been joking about it on Twitter:

The Leader of the our Lords group was perhaps upset that he didn’t make the list:

Sarah Ludford was modest:

Liz Barker is such a diplomat:

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LibLink: Liz Barker on Trump and his ‘hateful eight’

 

Lib Dem peer Liz Barker has written a post on Politics Home titled ‘Trump and his hateful eight are condemning women worldwide‘.

She writes:

So egregious is the Trump administration that it is difficult to focus one’s anger and start to plan a fightback.  The thing which spurred me on was that photograph of Trump and a bunch of old white men – the hateful eight – signing the executive order for the global gag.  At the stroke of a pen, a bunch of billionaires condemned women and girls all over the world to misery, illness and, in many cases, death.

The policy originated in 1984 under Reagan and was reinstituted under both Bush governments, all three Republicans. The policy in the past required non-US NGOs to certify that they would not “perform or actively promote abortion as a method of family planning” (an anti-abortion lobby standard line), even with non-US funds, as a condition for receiving USAID global family planning assistance

The Trump version of the policy of 23 January 2017 is, predictably, bigger and more insidious.  NGOs who are receiving any US global health assistance will have to sign the Gag Rule, including those running HIV programmes, maternal and child health programmes, infectious diseases programmes, or those dealing with Zika virus – as well as family planning programmes. Moreover, it applies whether the funds come from USAID, as in the past, or from any US government agency or department.

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Some reflections on #IDAHOBIT

Today is the annual International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia as we saw from Team INtogether’s post earlier.

The party has been marking the day in various ways. We’ve been tweeting up a storm. Liz Barker and Jonny Oates recorded this video:

There’s been a series of lovely graphics:

Norman Lamb has resubmitted his motion calling for people who want gender neutral passports to be able to have them. Recently, I saw on social media a teacher who has transgender and non binary pupils under their care object to these proposals. Imagine how that makes their pupils feel and how confident they would feel about that teacher to support them. That brings me to what’s been happening north of the border.

Willie Rennie took time out of his short-lived campaign to be First Minister to emphasise the need for all teachers in all schools – that’s the denominational ones, too – to be trained to ensure that all Scotland’s schools are inclusive environments for learning.

He said:

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What our busy peers will be up to this week

Here are some of the things our team in the House of Lords will be doing this week:

Monday: Roger Roberts will be pushing the Government to take action to relieve the situation of unaccompanied refugee children. Tim Farron has been pushing the Government to accept 3,000 at risk refugee children but David Cameron has recently rejected the proposal. The Liberal Democrats will continue to fight to find a solution which does not leave these children vulnerable.

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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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Liz Barker wins Pink News “Peer of the Year” award

Congratulations to Pink News on their 10th anniversary. Last night they presented their annual awards. It was fantastic to see Liz Barker’s achievements being recognised as she won Peer of the Year. Here she is being presented with her award by Tim Farron:

Liz Barker gets award from Tim Farron

Let’s just remind you of some of her recent best bits campaigning for LGBT+ equality.

There was that amazing speech during the passing of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill:

Many years ago I had the great good fortune to meet someone. She and I

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Stonewall withdraw their inaccurate election graphic – but don’t replace it with one which accurately reflects Lib Dem achievements

Every time you think it’s safe to like Stonewall again, they do something tribally partisan for the Labour Party. As I reported yesterday, they produced a graphic that gave Labour full marks to their questions, but only 2/5 for Liberal Democrats. A cursory glance at the manifesto would have given us full marks, as LGBT + Lib Dems Chair Dave Page and Communities Minister Stephen Williams told Pink News.

I’m astounded by this grossly misleading graphic, suggesting the Liberal Democrats have little to say about LGB&T rights in our manifesto. The opposite is true.

We have seven specific policies including making anti gay chanting an offence, promoting international recognition of same sex marriages and more action on homophobic bullying. As a Stonewall member I am deeply disappointed that they have chosen to spell out Labour Party policies and ignore Lib Dem proposals, which build on our long standing commitment to gay rights.

Liz Barker’s tweets in response were also very informative.

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Two grateful men, one scarf, an angry Baroness and an LGBT organisation that can’t read what’s in the Lib Dem manifesto

Stonewall dropped a huge clanger yesterday by issuing a graphic on its Facebook page that gave Labour a tick for all the policies it had featured and gave only two to the Liberal Democrats. Thing is, anyone who had read the Liberal Democrat manifesto would know that all these things were in fact there.

Pink News has a wonderfully sarcastic quote from LGBT+ Chair Dave Page:

It is surprising that an organisation with Stonewall’s resources, if it seeks to appear nonpartisan, did not seem to have taken the time to quickly search through the Liberal Democrats’ main party manifesto (rather than the separate documents published by some other parties).

If they had, they would have found the commitment to tackle hate crime in section 9.3: ‘Change sentencing guidelines to increase sentences available for hate crimes.’

They would have also found the following on overseas aid in section 11.6: ‘Liberal Democrats believe British foreign policy and international aid should seek to advance human rights and democracy throughout the world. We believe all people – regardless of ethnicity, disability, age, belief, gender or sexual orientation – deserve a freer, fairer and more prosperous world.’

Under Ruth Hunt’s excellent leadership, Stonewall have done a lot of work to build bridges and listen to a wider array of voices.

We hope that the days of Lib Dem MPs having to lobby Stonewall to support equality rather than the opposite are behind us all. Unfortunately their rush to issue this ill-researched graphic undermines their reputation for being even-handed advocates of equality.

Lib Dem Peer Liz Barker also took Stonewall to task on Twitter. In a series of tweets parodying Stonewall’s “Some people are gay/trans, get over it” phrase, she outlined the Liberal Democrat record on LGBT rights:

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Liz Barker leads first ever Lords debate on Lesbian, bisexual and transgender women’s health

Last Wednesday, Baroness Liz Barker, who made one of the most fantastic speeches of the entire debate on same sex marriage,  led the first ever debate on health services for lesbians and bisexual and transgender women.

The ignorance and even ridicule LBT women have faced from health professionals in the accounts Liz and others shared during the debate is truly astonishing. There does not seem to be a widespread understanding of even the very basic issues they may face.

The Minister’s reply was a bit frustrating because he basically agreed with everything that was being said but didn’t offer any actual, concrete proposal to make things better.

You can read the whole debate here, but Liz’s speech in full is published below:

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Liberal Democrat amendment making revenge porn a crime to be debated today – watch Hannah’s story

"Frozen Poetry" - Houses of Parliament, LondonThis afternoon, an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill in the name of four Liberal Democrat peers, Jonathan Marks, Olly Grender, Liz Barker and Sal Brinton, will be debated in the House of Lords. Its effects would be to make it an offence to publish a sexually explicit image of a person without their consent, punishable by 6 months to a year in prison.

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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 …

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Liz Barker is up for a Pink News award for Parliamentary speech of the year – vote today!

In June, we brought you Liz Barker’s moving speech on the Same Sex Marriage Bill. Liz started by talking about her own relationship which is as long as mine, yet she hasn’t been able to get married to her partner in the same way as I did to mine 25 years ago. Her speech very carefully and without rancour demolished the usual arguments against. She said:

Some noble Lords say that allowing gay people to get married is unfair as it leaves other sorts of relationships, such as those of siblings, without the same legal rights as those who choose a marital

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