Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Labour LGBT+ Policies: An Outline

So far in my attempt to collate LGBT+ policy platforms from the main political parties in England, I've managed to raise awareness of the Green's motion on intersex rights (that was passed at the recent Spring Conference 2017...see more about other Green LGBTQIA+ policies here: http://sassysvensknorsk.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/green-party-policies-worth-paying.html), the Lib Dem's record on advancing non-binary trans rights with relation to legislative reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and Equality Act 2010 (which you can view here: http://sassysvensknorsk.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/lib-dem-lgbt-policies.html)
and the Conservatives' apparent commitments to trialling the PrEP drug in England and HPV vaccine for men who have sex with men (http://sassysvensknorsk.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/lgbt-conservative-policiesmore.html). Now my attention turns to the Labour party's record on and commitment to LGBT+ rights.

It's certainly true to argue that Labour, under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown did more to advance LGBT+ equality in the UK than any other previous Government. These days they may not get the full credit that they deserve. So here's a list of achievements that Labour members past and present can and should be rightly proud of:
  • The age of consent for homosexual acts was equalised with heterosexual acts at 16 in 2000 (Sexual Offences Amendment Act 2000)
  • Section 28 (which forbade local authorities from promoting homosexuality or promote homosexuality as an accepted "family relationship" in schools) was repealed through Section 122 of the Local Government Act 2003
  • The ban on LGBT+ people serving in our armed forces was lifted, meaning that our brave LGBT+ service personnel could be open and proud of their identity
  • Labour scrapped offences such as buggery and gross indecency 
  • Labour signed up to the Treaty of Amsterdam, which mandated EU countries to end discrimination on the basis of sexuality/sexual orientation
  • Discrimination against LGBT+ people in the workplace and in voluntary training schemes was banned thanks to the introduction of the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) regulations
  • Labour created the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
  • Labour included homophobia in its hate crime legislation and increased sentence lengths for perpetrators
  • Labour introduced the original Gender Recognition Act, giving statutory protection to transsexuals for the first time in 2004
  • Labour introduced Civil Partnerships, allowing same-sex couples to have legal recognition of their status so they could have the same benefits of married couples in 2004
  • Labour awarded statutory rights for lesbians to have access to fertility treatment on the NHS in 2008
  • Labour introduced the Equality Act in 2010, with LGBT+ people protected from direct and indirect discrimination through the protected characteristics of "sexual orientation" and "gender reassignment".
Nobody can deny that record isn't impressive and it does seem that most LGBT+ legislation has been implemented when we have had a Labour Government. So what is Labour's current policy position and how will they help advance LGBT+ rights further? Here's a few policies I managed to find:
  • Labour are opposed to cuts in HIV+ services being undertaken by local authorities. The research from the National Aids Trust shows that 25% of local authorities are cutting contract funding by 50%. Labour recognises that newly diagnosed patients need access to those support services so that they can get the information they need to help allay concerns over employment, jobs, housing etc. HIV services, as Ian Dolan-Thomas, Co-Chair for LGBT Labour points out, help challenge the stigma around HIV which still hasn't gone away. Research conducted by the Terrence Higgins Trust in their Unchartered Territory report (looking at the first generation growing older with HIV) demonstrates that 30% of respondents thought that HIV can be passed by shared toothbrush use and 20% by kissing...that kind of attitude definitely needs to be challenged through more comprehensive public health awareness schemes.
  • Labour wants to see a roll out of PrEP across England to be prescribed free of charge on the NHS to those in the most high risk groups, including women whose partners may have sex with men but not describe themselves as bisexual.
  • Labour wants to see the HPV vaccine given to all men who have sex with men, regardless of their age.
  • Labour wants to undertake a review of the GRA and EA which would include looking at removal of the Spousal Veto requirement within the GRA and changing the protected characteristic from "Gender Reassignment" to "Gender Identity" to be inclusive of non-binary, gender-fluid and genderqueer identities.
  • Labour wants to implement the dual discriminations principle contained within the EA so that a tribunal case can be brought against an employer if they have discriminated against a lesbian woman on the basis of her sex and sexual orientation. Labour also wants to scrap tribunal fees to allow more employees to access justice.
  • Labour backs the Conservative Government's decision to implement compulsory age appropriate Sex and Relationships education but wants to ensure that it is LGBT+ inclusive, including lessons on gender identity to help reduce instances of transphobia in schools.
  • Labour wants all LGBT+ to have "equal access to mental health treatments" free from prejudice, including "talking therapies". Labour will also "prioritise early intervention and referral for young LGBT+" people. 
  • Labour wants to work with trans activists and organisations to improve care services offered by GPs and Gender Identity Clinics. I hope this means that Labour would back Lib Dem calls for a government review into the abuse faced by trans and non-binary patients in the NHS.
  • Labour will protect the Human Rights Act 1998.
  • Labour is committed to "a review of asylum processes surrounding applications on the basis of persecution for sexuality or gender identity". I hope this would include looking at gender neutral facilities in detention centres and making sure asylum seekers have access to sufficient medical treatment where necessary.
  • Labour will continue to support LGBT+ candidates through the development of their future candidate programme.
  • Labour are against the axing of Housing Benefit for under 21 year olds because LGBT+ young people could be most affected; Labour points out data from the Albert Kennedy Trust which showed that up to 25% of young homeless people may identify as LGBT+.
The Labour platform does look fairly comprehensive but I'd like to know whether Jeremy Corbyn will look at enshrining non-binary and intersex rights into law by adapting the Gender Recognition Act and Equality Act. Most intersex activists want to see an end to unnecessary sex assignment operations being carried out on young children who cannot make the decision on their gender themselves and would like intersex to be a separate protected characteristic in the Equality Act. Non-binary people want the ability to self-define their identity legally on documentation without having to go through medical diagnosis. The Lib Dems have been clear that passports should have an X option and I hope that Labour will consider following suit. 

Prominent Labour LGBT+ patrons and members include:
  • Lord Waheed Alli, a multimillionaire media baron who helped co-found and manage Planet 24, and is the current CEO of Silvergate Media. Alli is openly gay and Muslim and was the youngest and first openly gay peer in Parliament. Alli spreaheaded the campaign to repeal Section 28 and advocated for the lowering of same-sex intercourse from 18 to 16 which became law in 2000. Alli also helped to get the ban on civil partnerships being conducted in religious institutions lifted by gaining bipartisan support for an amendment to the Equality Act 2010. Alli is patron of the Albert Kennedy Trust and the Elton John AIDS foundation. 
  • Rt. Hon. Ben Bradshaw MP for Exeter who won a 11,705 majority in 1997 against homophobic Conservative candidate Adrian Rodgers. Bradshaw believes that the Church of England should be more accepting of gay clergy, including preventing clergy from being defrocked for wanting to marry their partner. Bradshaw was the first Cabinet Minister to be in a civil partnership. 
  • Angela Eagle MP for Wallasey who became the second openly lesbian MP in Parliament. Eagle was famously told to "calm down, dear" in a patronising sexist way by David Cameron in 2011. Eagle has served in a number of positions including most notably Shadow Leader of the House of Commons.
  • Nia Griffith MP for Llanelli is current Shadow Defence Secretary. Griffith has previously been a teacher and has written a book on language teaching. Griffith also helped found a local Women's Aid organisation. Griffith came out as lesbian in February last year.
  • Rt. Hon Lord Smith of Finsbury was the first openly gay MPs in Parliament and the first to acknowledge that he was HIV positive in 2005. As Secretary for Culture, Media and Sport, Smith managed to negotiate a tax rebate that enabled many museums to offer free admission from 2000 onwards. 
If you like the look of Labour's LGBT+ platform, you can consider joining Labour LGBT+ here: http://www.lgbtlabour.org.uk. Labour LGBT+ is an affiliate of the Labour Party that's been active since 1975. Labour LGBT+ members helped convince Labour MPs when in opposition to the Conservatives in the 1990's to get rid of Section 28 and criticised Labour MPs who voted against equalising the age of consent in 1994. Labour LGBT+ continues to campaigns hard to get LGBT+ city councillors, county councillors and MPs elected and will do so again on June 8th as our General Election cycle begins once again.