Writing for PinkNews on International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, the leader of the Green Party for England and Wales, Natalie Bennett, says there’s still many ongoing issues when it comes to LGBT equality.
As we mark IDAHOT, I’m proud to be able to look back over the long, proud record of campaigning on equality led by the LGBTI community supported by the Green Party – often before any other party. Many leading frontline campaigns on LGBTI equality: issues are now broadly won, from the equal age of consent to the end to Section 28; from same-sex marriage (on which we were the first party to support marriage equality), to speaking out against hate crime and cultural oppression.
We’ve got a very active and effective LGBTI group within the Green Party, and also a strong Green Party Women organisation, of which I’m proud to have been the founding chair.
Yet sadly, there’s still many ongoing issues: Green MP Caroline Lucas is particularly focused on ensuring that all school students, including those at free schools and academies, get non-discriminatory sex and relationship education, on stopping homophobic chants at football games, and at ending the NHS requirement for a mandatory two-year period of psychiatric assessment for trans people.
Many Green Party members are working on seeing that LGBTI asylum seekers are treated fairly, equitably and humanely, and the particular dangers that they can face in many countries is appropriately identified and recognised. Abusive, intrusive questioning and ill-informed judgements continue, and the numbers needing refuge is only likely to grow with events such as the passing of the dreadful anti-homosexuality law in Uganda.
For while in Britain we can celebrate significant achievements, it’s also important to look around the world and see how much still needs to be achieved. Both Caroline and our Green MEPs, Jean Lambert and Keith Taylor, have spoken out on these issues, notably around the Sochi Winter Olympics. We’re proud of Peter Tatchell, one of the key pioneers on LGBTI issues and an important figure in the achievement of equal marriage, still at the forefront after decades of campaigning.
With the proportional representation European elections on May 22, we need only a swing of 1.6% around the country to treble our number of MEPs in Brussels. The importance our MEPs have and will continue to give to LGBTI issues is demonstrated in the manifesto we have launched.
We’re demanding that any new states entering the EU must demonstrate that they fully respect LGBTI rights, and our MEPs support making LGBTIQ rights a core European competency. With the Green group, the fourth-largest in the European Parliament, we’re arguing for a vote to enshrine a set of minimum rights for LGBTIQ people via legislation in Parliament.
Closer to home, our Green-led Brighton and Hove council has led the way in actions for trans equality: the City Services department has now added the title ‘Mx’ on its forms, and there’s been awareness training for councillors, staff and health service workers to help trans people gain access to necessary services.
Personally, an issue I’m particularly concerned with is maintaining civil partnerships and allowing equal access to them. As a feminist I know that not everyone with a partner wants to get married, but may want to legal status that comes from civil partnership.
We can celebrate progress today – and we should, while also looking forward to a Britain, a Europe, a world, that works for the common good, without discrimination.
Natalie Bennett is the leader of the Green Party for England and Wales.