Editorial: 10 things that all Tory leadership candidates should agree on LGBT rights
As candidates begin to emerge for the Conservative Party leadership, there are ten things we believe every future leader must commit to.
David Cameron will go down in history as the first Conservative party leader to bring reform on LGBT rights, and will undoubtedly leave a positive legacy on equality through the introduction of same-sex marriage.
It is imperative that any Conservative MP who wishes to be his successor commits to the following ten policies and positions that David Cameron already holds to be true.
1. Stand by same-sex marriage
David Cameron made history with the passing of same-sex marriage. More than half of his MPs did not back the change in the law, although some including Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and Armed Forces Minister Mark Lancaster have changed their minds, and now back equal marriage.
However, many Tory MPs have not publicly admitted that they were wrong. It is imperative that all candidates now acknowledge publicly that same-sex marriage has improved equality in our country and that they commit not to change the law. Equally, they all must commit, like David Cameron, to push the government in Northern Ireland to consider the case for equal marriage there too.
2. Keep commitments to human rights
Many LGBT rights in the UK including the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the lifting of the ban on gay people serving in the military and the equalisation of the age of consent emanate from the judgements European Court of Human Rights.
The current government policy is for the UK to remain a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights outside the EU. We look to candidates to commit to the continuation of this policy or at the very least continue to abide by the wording of the convention.
3. Support LGBT people around the world
Over recent years, the government has committed to fight for LGBT rights both at home and overseas.
More recently, the government has funded overseas programmes to support LGBT people and activists through the Department of International Development (DFID) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). All candidates to succeed David Cameron must commit to continuing this important aid. They should also commit to provide a safe haven to LGBT people escaping persecution overseas.
Equally, the Prime Minister has described himself as the UK’s LGBT envoy, raising LGBT rights causes with leaders around the world from Vladimir Putin to Barack Obama.
Any successor, must continue, where necessary to raise LGBT rights with their fellow world leaders.
4. Engage with the LGBT community
David Cameron and the staff at Downing Street have made a special effort to engage with the LGBT community.
The PM has regularly contributed to PinkNews, keeping our readers updated with the progress towards same-sex marriage, and has on a number of occasions answered questions submitted by PinkNews readers.
As Prime Minister, David Cameron has hosted LGBT receptions and summits as well as regularly filming video messages for important occasions within the LGBT calendar including Pride and World AIDS day. It is important that his successor continues this engagement with the wider LGBT community.
5. Respond to the transgender review
Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, has committed the government to respond to the large-scale transgender review conducted by Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee.
Transgender people are demanding changes to the Gender Recognition Act, to improve streamline the process and also recognise non-binary people. They also need reform to health care provisions among other important changes.
The current government has commited to working on how to implement the changes to transgender provisions, and it is important that this does not fall by the wayside while attention shifts to Brexit.
6. Retain a Cabinet Minister for Equalities
During David Cameron’s time as Prime Minister, we have seen the benefit of a high-ranking cabinet minister with responsibly for equalities issues.
Theresa May, as Home Secretary and Minister for Equalities helped ensure that same-sex marriage made it onto the government agenda.
Her successor, Maria Miller, ensured that it passed in Parliament.
In turn, her successor Sajid Javid brought in the process to allow civil partnerships to be converted to marriages.
His successor, Nicky Morgan, has used her role as Education Secretary to focus attention on the issue of homophobic and transphobic bullying.
It is imperative that the next Prime Minister continues to appoint a cabinet rank Minister for Equalities.
7. Tackle hate crimes and homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying
Homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools, the workplace and wider communities is a menace and it must be stamped out.
Any future Prime Minister must continue to condemn this as strongly as David Cameron has done, and commit to continue to fund schemes to make our society a more equal and inclusive place to live, work and study in.
We would further welcome commitments for candidates to commit to all children, whatever their school, to be offered inclusive sex and relationship education that recognises that modern families come in all shapes and sizes.
8. Continue existing reviews on LGBT policies
The government and official bodies are currently reviewing the provision of PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), blood donation rules for gay and bisexual men, and the possibility of pardons for historic gay sex convictions.
In addition, there are many calls for a review into pension provisions for those in a same-sex relationship, as some private schemes discriminate against gay and bisexual couples. These reviews should and must continue.
9. End ‘gay cure’ therapies
David Cameron told PinkNews that “treating lesbian, gay and bisexual people as having an illness to be ‘cured’ is profoundly wrong.” He added that although the government was not planning to make them illegal, “if we need to go further to protect people from harm, we will.”
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Education Secretary Nicky Morgan told the audience at the PinkNews Awards: “Gay cure therapies have no place in our country and we must stamp them out.”
It is of concern that Stephen Crabb’s office accepted interns from an organisation linked to gay cure therapies. A future leader must like David Cameron condemn gay cure therapies and pledge not to work with any organisation that advocates or supports these practices.
10. Reject calls to weaken anti-discrimination laws
There have been proposals from the Democratic Unionist and UK Independence Parties to introduce ‘conscience’ provisions into equalities law, which would create exemptions from LGBT anti-discrimination protections on the grounds of religious belief.
Any future Conservative leader must make a clear commitment not to take regressive action, which would be damaging to the UK as it has been in certain US states.
It took decades to reach consensus on our anti-discrimination laws, which are some of the strongest in the world, and a future Tory leader must stand by the progress we have made.