Writing exclusively for PinkNews to mark International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg warns that UKIP would “rather turn the clock back” on LGBT equality.
This has been a good week for LGBT rights. Last weekend Austrian drag act Conchita Wurst won the Eurovision Song Contest, reminding us that we live in the most liberal continent in the world. Some progress was made on the other side of the Atlantic too. A federal judge declared the state of Idaho’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional, saying it relegated same-sex couples to a second-class status.
Predictably, however, these victories have not been universally welcomed. Online petitions were started in Russia, Belarus and Armenia to try and persuade the European Broadcasting Union to remove Conchita from the competition. In Idaho, lawyers for the state have been clamouring to appeal the ruling.
So this weekend, as we mark Saturday’s International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, we should celebrate sexual and gender diversity – but we equally need to redouble our efforts for equality. There is still a long way to go.
The Liberal Democrats have always fought passionately for the rights of the LGBT community – the values of equality and respect for all are central to our party. One of things I’m most proud of in government has been the introduction of same-sex marriage in England and Wales, championed by Liberal Democrat Lynne Featherstone. It’s partly thanks to equal marriage that the UK has been ranked the 1st in Europe for LGBT rights for the third year in a row.
That should give every person in Britain reason to feel proud. And yet people like Nigel Farage and UKIP still won’t support it. Rather than embrace modern Britain, they’d rather turn the clock back. That’s why my party is doing everything we can to try and stop them making gains at the Euro Elections this coming Thursday. I want those elections to send as many Liberal Democrats as possible to represent Britain in the European Parliament – because we’re the people who will stand up for a Britain that is open and diverse.
Your Liberal Democrat MEPs have already been fighting for the rights of the LGBT community in Europe. For example, they have supported a European Parliament campaign for the recognition of equal marriage, civil partnerships and cohabitation in EU countries, as well as for the mutual recognition of these civil partnerships between different countries. They have led the campaign for new EU laws that would outlaw discrimination across Europe against LGBT people who had previously been turned away from services and businesses. Liberal Democrat MEPs have also led calls for the European council to condemn LGBT oppression in countries such as Russia and Uganda, encouraging EU countries to offer asylum to those fleeing persecution because of their sexuality or gender identity.
If you want a party that defends equality and respects a person’s gender and sexuality then now is the time to make yourself heard. Vote for the Liberal Democrats on May 22. Vote to stay in the EU, vote to stand up to prejudice and vote for a party that will work with our neighbours to ensure Europe becomes even more of a tolerant, liberal and progressive continent.
Nick Clegg is Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Leader of the Liberal Democrats.