The Liberal Democrats have pledged to bring forward new legislation to tackle homophobia in schools and at football matches.
The party made the commitment in its Manifesto, which was unveiled today by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
The manifesto includes a pledge to extend the Equality Act to prevent homophobia and transphobia in schools, as well as introducing statutory SRE and clamping down on anti-gay football chants.
However, it does not make a single specific reference to transgender or non-binary people – despite Nick Clegg recently saying his party would update Gender Recognition Act and review ‘Gender X’ Passports.
The manifesto states: “The Liberal Democrats want to establish a tolerant and inclusive environment for all pupils in schools.
“We will work with schools to stamp out homophobic and transphobic bullying, and to establish an inclusive environment for all children.
“We’ll extend the protections in the Equality Act to prevent bullying and harassment in schools based on sexual orientation and gender reassignment.”
An exemption contained in the Equality Act 2010 – which the Lib Dems would plan to alter – means that rules to prevent harassment in schools currently only apply to disability, race, sex or pregnancy and maternity – and not to religion or belief, sexual orientation or gender reassignment.
It also states: “We’ll also legislate to make homophobic chanting at football matches a criminal offence, like racist chanting.”
Under the Football Offences Act 1991 it is a crime to take part in “chanting of an indecent or racialist nature” – but homophobic chants are not yet explicitly criminalised in the same way.
The party said: “At present, the law does not give police and other authorities the means to tackle homophobic chanting specifically.
“Liberal Democrats will change the law to give police the specific powers they need to clamp down on homophobic chanting.
“The evidence strongly shows that outlawing racist chanting in the same way has helped tackle racism at football matches.”
The party also pledged to introduce statutory inclusive sex and relationship education, pledging to create a “curriculum for life” that includes statutory SRE.
Nick Clegg has come under fire for his party’s inaction on SRE in the last Parliament, with Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper telling the PinkNews Debate last month: “The Lib Dems have voted against it several times when we put forward amendments in Parliament to push this through.”
The Lib Dem leader hit back in a Q&A with PinkNews, telling a reader: “The Labour party had thirteen years to introduce mandatory Personal, Social and Health Education, as Liberal Democrats were calling for. They failed.
“In fact, it was Labour who decided academies didn’t have to teach the National Curriculum – creating a whole class of schools that can drop sex and relationship education entirely.”
The Labour Party and the Green Party have both pledged support for statutory SRE in their manifestos – but the Conservatives have not done so, and UKIP’s deputy leader previously described plans as “politically correct nonsense”.
The manifesto also included a graphic recapping the party’s past on equality issues.