The Fight for LGBT+ Rights: An Unfinished Rainbow?

This past weekend, Kiev, Ukraine hosted the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest, an event referred to by some as ‘Gay Christmas’, with the theme ‘Celebrate Diversity’. In celebration of this theme, the Friendship of Nations Arch was to be redecorated to form a rainbow as a symbol of equality. Unfortunately, due to protests from far-right groups, the arch was never fully covered in a rainbow, and yet somehow has become, I feel the most poignant and apt depiction of the state of Equality in our society.

On one side, the one facing the city of Kiev, the rainbow is about half complete, the bare steel a reminder of the distance left to travel. On the other side, less visible, there is much less rainbow and much more steel, a great reminder that under the surface there is much further to go, with many people here in the UK still suffering from Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia at home, at work and in the street.

Even our healthcare system is failing the community in many ways, with many of my trans friends waiting months on end for GIC visits, and some finding their own GPs lacking in the skills, training or compassion to effectively assist with their condition. Some have even resorted to travelling abroad to have treatment done privately. There is also the blatantly discriminatory blood ban, which effectively stops myself and many other gay and bisexual men, and their partners, from donating blood at a time where we are constantly bombarded with radio and television ads calling out for new donors.

The European Convention on Human Rights, in addition to EU laws, provide massive and welcome protections to members of the LBT+ community, and the Conservative Brexit government want a blank slate to write a brand new ‘British Bill of Rights’ after leaving the EU. Who knows what protections will be included (or missed)?

In the wider world there are still over 70 countries in the world where homosexuality is illegal (the exact number varies depending on your definition of a recognised country), and 12 where it is punishable by death. When compared to the 22 countries in which same sex marriage is legal in some form, there is a long way to go.

In America there has been a struggle for marriage equality, which has been apparently settled by the supreme court but still subject to backlash from conservative communities, and in many states members of the trans community are faced with gender policing and possible arrest for using the ‘wrong’ bathroom. Trump positioned himself as an advocate of LGBT+ rights during his campaign but despite his penchant for executive orders, actions are sadly lacking.

One of the most worrying developments for the LGBT+ community is the news coming from Chechnya, where troubling reports suggest that Gay men are being rounded up and taken to compounds scarily similar to the concentration camps of WW2, and other reports suggesting that families are being forced to kill their own children for being gay. This is happening not in the far off, Daesh controlled Islamic state in the middle east but IN EUROPE.

The Liberal Democrat manifesto has made commitments to making the UK a safe harbour to those fleeing Syria, pledging to take in more Syrian refugees than any other party.

I would ask that our party, and all parties should also pledge to make the UK a safe harbour for anyone fleeing from persecution because of their sexual or gender identity, and that we should be taking action against the dangerous actions of the Russian and Chechen administrations. 

I am proud to be part of a party which is Open, Tolerant and United, and it was one of my proudest moments to speak in Brighton at the almost unanimously approved PrEP motion. Let’s not stop there. Let’s make a commitment to protecting the LGBT+ community around the world and at home.

* Fraser Graham is a Liberal Democrat member in Edinburgh

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  • Lorenzo Cherin 18th May '17 - 2:19pm

    Fraser, writes poignantly about this important topic.

    Just this week, two gay men, a couple, caned in Indonesia! This, as he shows, mild , compared to countries where they might be executed or in a prison for years !

    In our desire to be fair to Corbyn and his pleasant manner and caring nature, we must not overly gloss , and paint with nice colourful rainbow coalition hues, onto, the record of some of the countries and groups he and his colleagues on the left have too , many friends in of an authoritarian sort.

    Castro the elderly sage , was different to the Castro who imprisoned gay people and shunned, horribly, those with HIV AIDS!

    The Hamas regime is one of the worst examples of hypocrisy, bastion of the rights of Palestinians , unless they happen to be gay ! Israel on the other hand , is one of the most progressive countries , on LGBT rights, the only country in the Middle East where Muslim citizens who are gay , can hold themselves with confidence and in freedom !

    As for the May Tories, well better late than never !!

  • What is it with our party? We are fighting for our life, and half the recent threads on LDV are about the dead end of identity politics. Wtf?

  • Ruth Bright 18th May '17 - 5:23pm

    Ian – what a miserable reaction. Fraser’s piece is about human rights not identity politics. Liberals should always be proud to talk about human rights – including at election time!!
    Fraser is also correct that there is a very long way to go. This week I have been attempting to help someone who was a victim of homophobic intimidation a few days ago. Homophobic words were clearly used but the police will not register the incident as homophobic; in fact they were hardly interested.

  • This thread may be old(two weeks is, after all, a long time in politics) BUT..I was amazed just how far the Tories will go in re-writing history….

    It now emerges that the driving force on these rights are the Tories (with Theresa May being the “unsung hero” of LGBT legislation)??
    Brian Paddick pointed out that the energy came from the LibDems with Lynne Featherstone in the van where-as Mrs May’s record was anything but supportive..
    May’s voting record on LGBT issues includes voting against gay adoption in 2002 and voting against the repeal of Section 28, which banned councils from “promoting” homosexuality, in 2000.

    Unsung hero????????

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