Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Progress on LGBT rights for the next generation

Political change can be grindingly slow and difficult to entrench, but when it comes to LGBT rights we can unequivocally say that over the 13 years Labour was in government we changed things beyond recognition for LGBT people in this country.

When I was first becoming politically aware many newspapers hounded gay celebrities and dubbed equality a loony left issue. This weekend, those very same papers published large features on ‘how to organise the perfect gay wedding’. It would be churlish not to cheer this sea-change.

But we should never forget how we got to this point. The revolution our party delivered in office: equalising the age of consent, ending the ban on LGBT people serving in our armed forces, the Gender Recognition Act, abolishing the hated section 28, the right to adopt for gay and lesbian couples, civil partnerships – each and every one of these measures hard-fought and a tribute to the campaigners who fought for change.

But people do not vote for the past, they vote for a vision for the future.

We have achieved a lot but the fact remains that a gay or lesbian couple walking hand in hand down the high street still turns heads. When that does not happen any more we will have achieved true equality.

The tragic case of Lucy Meadows is a stark reminder of the continued presence of ignorance and hostility LGBT people face. When more than half of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people self-harm, and one in four have considered taking their own life, it is not enough to wait for attitudes to catch up.

We must tackle the scandal of homophobic bullying in schools, but this is not just the job of teachers. We need leadership from role models like our sportsmen and sportswomen and bodies like the FA to stamp out homophobia on the terraces and the pitches just as they have worked to do with racism, to create an environment where it will no longer make national news for a footballer to talk openly about their sexuality.

We should welcome with open arms cross-party support for this agenda, but we must also be sure that Labour is the only party that will deliver it

David Cameron deserves praise for sticking with equal marriage but ultimately he could not bring his party with him – it was Labour votes he had to rely on to get legislation through.

It is this same reluctance that means the government are now dragging their feet on issues such as allowing civil partners to convert to marriage and preventing couples from having to dissolve their marriage in order for one spouse to gain gender recognition.

Nor can we expect a party with one foot out the door of Europe to provide the international leadership needed to challenge those countries like Russia and Uganda who deny the human rights of LGBT people.

A Labour government will appoint a new global envoy on LGBT rights to advocate on the world stage. We will make sex and relationships education which teaches about same-sex relationships and respect compulsory in all schools. We will commission a review of the Gender Recognition Act to bring it up to date and address the spousal veto issue for England and Wales.

Because, as the party of equality, it will take a Labour government to drive progress forward for the next generation.

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Gloria De Piero MP is shadow minister for women and equalities. She tweets @GloriaDePieroMP

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Photo: Kellie Parker

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Gloria De Piero MP

is member of parliament for Ashfield

2 comments

  • Its historically a military thing really, isn’t it? Apart from Alexander and a few other prominent Greeks down the millennia, homophobia and fear of anything ‘queer’ has been hard-wired from birth into our collective psyches. [I am 60-ish … big -ish]

    When LGBT and Stonewall are no longer needed to ‘defend’ Gay Rights then the job is done. That may take a few generations. Or it may never happen? as heterosexual people don’t quite understand the basics of the ‘argument’ on Gay equalities, and for that matter neither do the LGBT folk. Its a never-ending dilemma which although is now ‘legal’ in United Kingdom, has still to run ‘fight4equality’ course elsewhere in the world.

    So long as we can get along with each other without beating each other to a pulp because of petty hatred [fear] stoked by bible-punchers and retired Generals, mainly, and so long as the Laws are steadfast and are seen to be equitable to both hetero’ and LGBTfolk, we as a Nation should be okay. In my limited reference/experience [theatre and night life shows] some of the gay waspish comments against hetero’s&straights are not always acceptable, and can be quite hurtful – ie,So, it takes 2 to tango — Equality is as Equality does, goose/gander hypothesis.

    As Mr P.Tatchell intimated the other week, the job has only just started with places like Russia, China, Africa et al having no truck with homosexuality, per se, and still completely against any form of same-gender relationships.In some cases our UK ‘ Trading partner friends’ execute Gay people – the death penalty is on the statute books. Not to mention our own CoE, Roman Catholics and other religious groups who hold Gayness as being akin to devil worship, or worse. Its a long road ahead and I wish LGBT&Stonewall fortitude and strength — the collectively-ignorant ‘Church’ leaders, CoE Leader & Pope down, and the general public have a long way to go to understand that a human being is a human being is a human being – period[!]. Their first step is to re-edit and to reprint the St James’ version of. the Bible in UK.

    Its a long road ahead, as PT intimated, but with complete and open frankness the road is now clear for better understanding. 45 years’ ago gay men & lesbian women would have been locked up and keys thrown away and suffered tragic loss of family and work mates through a small item on the 5th page of the newspaper. So. that’s quite an improvement in just over one generation. The built-in hatreds against gayfolk derived mainly from the churches and the establishment figures will take a long time to re-organise. The miracle has happened, now for the impossible. Good Luck Peter T! you will need it with the likes of Vlad … and others.

  • What about reforming the immigration and asylum systems to remove prejudice against L, G, B and T applicants? Stories of L&G asylum seekers having to ‘prove’ their sexuality, and being sent back to their countries to face danger, are disgraceful.

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