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Comment: Ken Livingstone claims Boris Johnson’s City Hall is ‘passive’ on gay rights

Ken Livingstone June 30, 2011

This weekend’s Pride reminds us that London’s status as the home to the largest LGBT community in Europe helps place it at the leading edge of major cities. A city that welcomes and encourages the talents and contributions of all is always going to be a more prosperous and safer one that any that does not.

That is why I will be marching with LGBT Labour members this Saturday at Pride. A better and fairer London depends on continuing to move forward on LGBT equality.

It is only a few years since London led Britain with the first civil partnerships register, which laid the groundwork for national legislation on civil partnerships.

The city of New York has now made a clear blow for equality – and in the process given clear leadership – with its passage of the same-sex marriage policy. It’s time for the British government to get on with legalising same sex marriage here.

If we are honest London looks directionless compared to New York. There are no bold moves on LGBT equality from City Hall. Not even a solid accumulation of steps that taken together would see us moving forward. Leadership is like walking up the down escalator. As soon as you stand still, you go backwards. This is bad news for London as a whole.

London is hosting WorldPride next year ahead of the Olympics. All eyes will be on us. London needs to lead the way here as well as standing in solidarity with people suffering homophobia in countries overseas and opposing deportation of those at risk.

Last year during Labour’s debate about who should be our candidate for Mayor I set out some of my early ideas on how we put London back on track.

Far from there being strides forward, under a Conservative Mayor we have seen a series of steps in the wrong direction: the early cutting of funding for Soho Pride; downgrading LGBT London with the cancellation of the Mayor’s annual Pride reception; and the withdrawal of the Greater London Authority from the Stonewall Equality Index. That sent a terrible message.

Yet there is plenty to do.

Londoners have had to mobilise over following appalling incidents where lesbians and gay men have been harassed or mistreated in pubs and bars.

Incidents like the Greencoat Boy or the John Snow happened right in the heart of central London where historically LGBT Londoners have been most visible. It indicates have plenty more work to do.

Homophobic bullying in schools has not gone away. Many services disproportionately used by LGBT Londoners face cuts. Public sector equality standards are being driven back. Rightly, LGBT organisations have led criticisms of cuts to preventive work on HIV.

The government is cutting the budget of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission by two thirds, leading to hundreds of jobs cuts, alongside massive proposed reductions in its powers. It is undermining the Equality Act.

Sadly City Hall is passive in the face of all this.

One lesson is that we need a Mayor’s LGBT Advisory Panel – and I would appoint a full-time LGBT adviser. We must defend London services from Tory government cuts, including services that LGBT people are more likely to use. We have to tackle homophobia on our streets and in our schools as a top priority. We need a city authority that takes a zero tolerance approach to hate crime and harassment.

That takes leadership and clarity – and to be in touch with the concerns of Londoners of all communities and backgrounds.

Let us celebrate LGBT London this weekend and rededicate ourselves to keeping moving forward for equality.

More: London

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