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Current Affairs

We asked these out MPs what the EU actually means for LGBT rights

Nick Duffy June 22, 2016

Ahead of tomorrow’s referendum on EU membership, four Members of Parliament look at the potential impact on LGBT people.

Tomorrow, the UK faces one of the most important choices in a generation, as the public decides whether to Leave the EU or Remain.

There are strong and complex views from LGBT people on both sides of the referendum, on issues from human rights to immigration, anti-discrimination protections to national identity.

Ahead of the vote, we have given platforms to four out MPs from across Parliament to have their say. Condensed excerpts are below.

Representing Remain, Labour’s Shadow Commons Leader Chris Bryant and Shadow Welsh Minister Nia Griffith make the case for staying in.

For the Brexit camp, Foreign Affairs committee chair Crispin Blunt and newly-elected MP William Wragg takes up the mantle.

 

Chris Bryant

One of Parliament’s most respected LGB politicians, Chris Bryant is the MP for Rhondda and Shadow Leader of the House of Commons.

I suspect that the vast majority of LGBTQ people in Britain will vote just like anyone else in the EU Referendum.

The very fact that LGBTQ people will vote no differently from anyone else is in itself a tribute to the fact that we have travelled so far politically in the last fifteen years here and across the EU.

But progress can all too easily go in to reverse gear.

The most liberal place in Europe in the 20th century for gay men was Berlin in the early 1930s – and we all know what happened by the end of that decade.

So we should be very careful about taking our hard-earned recent rights for granted.

We should remember that in many cases it was the European Court of Human Rights that pushed both the UK and other EU countries towards equal treatment for all and that it was the prospect of EU membership that turned many countries from harsh dictatorial regimes to liberal democracies where the rights of the individual are respected.

So there are two additional reasons I hope LGBTQ people will vote to remain.

First, we should stand in solidarity with others across the EU, especially in those countries where discrimination is still a reality.

Along with other countries, the UK can be a beacon for the rule of law and sexual equality – we should celebrate that in solidarity, not seek to fracture the progress Europe has made.

And secondly, we should rejoice in the fact that wherever we are in the EU we can be assured that our rights will be respected and protected as consumers, as citizens, as workers and as private individuals.

That means the recognition of our civil partnership or same-sex marriage across the EU.

It means being able to face down discrimination in employment across the EU. And it means enhancing and protecting our right to live our lives in freedom here at home.

That’s why, with other LGBTQ MPs and peers last week, I signed a letter calling on the UK to vote to Remain. We’re Out for IN. I hope you will be too.

Crispin Blunt

As well as chairing the influential Foreign Affairs Select Committee, MP for Reigate Crispin Blunt has championed a number of LGBT issues – most notably defeating a proposed ban on poppers.

The truth is any effect on LGBTI rights either way would be absolutely at the margins of all the other issues we need to balance in making our choice.

Britain is, finally and proudly, absolutely at the forefront of delivering LGBTI equality. It is impossible to conceive of equality legislation and regulation that would not be carried by a massive majority in the British Parliament.

Now, there may be some who seek to confuse by muddling up the EU and European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and try to say that by leaving one we might leave the other, and Brexit would mean the end of the ECHR protections for the UK.

They claim further the position on equality might change in the UK, and we would then need the ECHR protections.

If this argument, is pedalled you are being treated as a mug and you should ask some hard questions about why it would suit its proponents to treat you as too dim to work out the difference when presented with the facts and painting preposterously unlikely scenarios.

LGBTI rights are now hardwired into the British political establishment. Britain isn’t going soft on these rights hard won over 60 years, in or out of the EU, or the ECHR, for that matter.

Britain is going to continue to be one of the world’s leading proponents of LGBTI rights, in or out of the EU.

The fact is, supporters of LGBTI rights abroad, can make their EU decision knowing there are other issues at stake which are properly significant and they should weigh in the balance.

We have the luxury of the option of a perfectly sustainable global role outside the EU. This role is more attuned to our people, economic strengths, history and culture. We should take it and help our partners resolve their need for further political and security integration rather than obstruct them.

William Wragg

A former primary school teacher, 28-year-old MP for Hazel Grove William Wragg was one of a wave of young MPs elected in 2015.


It is frequently claimed by many that the EU is some great promoter of LGBT rights and a force for progressiveness, but these claims rarely stand up to scrutiny. It is a complete myth that these rights have come from the European Union.

Whilst it is true that homosexual acts are legal in all 28 EU member states, this is really more of a coincidence than due to any positive steps taken by the EU.

In its history the EU has never issued an edict to decriminalise same-sex activities, member states each did so voluntarily and individually.

When LGBT rights are examined across the EU, a complete smorgasbord of different levels of freedoms and rights is found.

Only 12 of 28 Members allow same-sex marriages, and seven countries even ban same-sex marriage in their constitutions. 22 EU countries do recognise civil partnerships, but yet six do not, and gay adoption is legal in only 13 EU states

With countries such as Turkey, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro looking to join, LGBT rights in the EU look set to be held back further as those with less tolerant views join in.

If we Vote Leave, we take back control from EU politicians who too often don’t share our values.

As this referendum debate enters its final days, I say to PinkNews readers that, there are many arguments to be made both for staying in and leaving the EU, but the advancement of LGBT rights is really not a reason to Remain.

At best the EU has proved itself weak and almost irrelevant at promoting gay rights, and at worst in several corners of the Union progress seems to be going backwards.

I don’t think LGBT rights in the UK will be at all damaged by voting to Leave, as we owe none of it to the EU in the first place; there is also a chance that the UK will be fairer, better off and a stronger advocate of LGBT rights around the world if we leave the European Union.

Nia Griffith

The Shadow Minister for Wales, Llanelli MP Nia Griffith came out publicly for the first time earlier this year, disclosing her sexuality at an event for LGB Parliamentarians.

In my lifetime, the UK has gone from a situation where homosexuality was criminalised to near-full legal equality.

But in some places, things are getting worse not better.

The most recent Rainbow Map from ILGA-Europe showed that progress was stalling in many Eastern European states because of rising homophobic rhetoric from political leaders and the introduction of anti-gay laws.

But instead of despairing or feeling complacent about our own progress, we need to work with partners on an international level to lobby for change. The European Union has a strong record of advocating for LGBT rights amongst member states and British Ministers and MEPs can use their voices to push for greater freedoms across the EU.

The simple fact is that gay people in countries like Poland or Latvia are more likely to see their rights protected by EU-wide legislation, than by their national governments. And by keeping Britain’s seat at the top table, we can act to make that happen.

Because when LGBT activists are being beaten and spat at in Pride marches in Warsaw and Riga, our response should be to stand with them, not to turn our back.

Staying inside the EU is a strong show of solidarity with gay people across the EU, but it is also a concrete way of achieving change.

I hope that LGBT people in Britain will join me in voting to remain in the EU so that we can continue to push for equal rights across Europe.

It was the EU that outlawed discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation back in 2000, and the European Court of Justice which told countries that offer civil unions that they must give gay people all the same rights as married couples.

Equality for LGBT people is explicitly recognised in the EU Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, meaning that all member states must offer a basic level of protection to gay and trans people.

The EU is a progressive force in today’s world and a real ally to equality. So I hope that LGBT people will agree, that while we’re proud to be out, we’re better off in.

More: brexit, Chris Bryant, crispin blunt, EU, EU Referendum, LGBT, Nia Griffith, referendum, remain, William Wragg

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