Prime Minister Theresa May has answered your questions on a range of LGBT issues ahead of the General Election.
In answering your questions the Prime Minister made commitments to reviewing the Gender Recognition Act to move away from medical checks and create a system that better works for trans people.
She also called for an independent investigation into the persecution of gay men in Chechnya, and shares her own Gay Icon.
Read Mrs May’s answers in full below:
Q – Julia, Hartlepool: As a Christian, and a vicar’s daughter, was it hard to be on the other side of the argument of the Church of England while you were the Minister for Equalities trying to make same-sex marriage a reality?
A – No, it wasn’t. We were very clear when we introduced the equal marriage legislation that it was not about forcing the Church of England to conduct marriage ceremonies, but removing a legal injustice. For me the argument was simple: If we believe that commitment, fidelity and marriage are good things, then we should celebrate and support them for everyone – and I’m glad that the law now reflects that.
Q – Stephen, Belfast: Will you support efforts to make equal marriage a reality in Northern Ireland as it is now the only part of the UK without it?
A – I have been clear that I believe marriage should be for everyone, regardless of sexuality. But it is a devolved matter for Northern Ireland, so it will be a matter for the parties there to decide.
PinkNews readers’ Q&As:
Q – Dominic, London : As a fellow Church of England member, I was glad to hear you confirm that you do not believe that gay sex is a sin. My fiancé and I would very much like to have our marriage solemnised in Church, our local vicar and our parish community are very much in favour of equality, but the law means that we cannot. Do you think that the Church of England should be able to solemnise same-sex marriages if the vicar and the community wish to opt in? Should gay clergy be allowed to marry the person they love rather than being forced to either have a civil partnership or leave their vocation?
A – Firstly, congratulations to you and your fiancé on your engagement, Dominic. As you know, the Church of England continues to debate these issues, and I respect the deeply-held views that many of its members have. As the established Church, it is in a different legal position from other churches or faith groups, so the law equalising marriage had to recognise that. I strongly support equal marriage, and I know that these debates will continue, but it will have to be for the Church as a whole to decide if it wants to make a change to its Canon law.
Q – Adam, Guildford: Now that equal marriage is legal in England and Wales and Turing’s law was passed while you have been PM, what do you think the next big steps for LGBT rights will be at home and overseas? What will you do to ensure progress for LGBT rights in the UK and internationally?
A – I am very proud of the progress we’ve made in this country to introduce equal marriage and to right the wrongs of the past. We have come a long way, but there is still more to be done. It isn’t just a matter of passing laws now – the challenge is to confront the remaining homophobia, biphobia and transphobia that exists, and we are continuing to take steps to do that, both at home and abroad.
In this country, we are putting extra funding into tackling anti-LGBT abuse in schools and in other areas, such as sport. Internationally, I am very clear that LGBT rights are human rights, and that is the approach we are taking. We already raise these issues in high-level contacts with governments such as Russia, and we will continue to do so. I want the UK to remain a world-leader in LGBT equality, and to use the progress we have made here to set an example to others.
Q – Christie, Basingstoke: The UK’s Gender Recognition Act was considered one of the most advanced when it passed in 2004, 13 years on, it appears to many to be out of date, and lack the speedy processes offered in other countries such as Ireland. Before you became Prime Minister, Nicky Morgan began to respond to the Women and Equalities Select Committee’s report on transgender issues, but since she left office, the government has been remarkably silent on the issue. Will you commit here and now to update the Gender Recognition Act to improve the lives of the many trans PinkNews readers across the UK?
A –Yes – we are currently reviewing the Act to take account of the issues that have been raised about how it operates. I know that for some trans people, the legal process to change their gender can be distressing, so changes do need to be made. We’re looking to move away from the current focus on medical checks towards a system that works better for trans people.
Q – (Many readers): What would a Conservative government do to halt the persecution of gay men in Chechnya?
A –What we’ve seen in reports from Chechnya about the treatment of gay men has been utterly barbaric and sickening. The recent statement by the regional government there, implying that such treatment of LGBT people is tolerable, is particularly abhorrent. As a government we have supported calls for a thorough and independent investigation to take place.
Our Embassy in Moscow has raised our concerns at a senior level with the Russian government, and we began urgent action last month to explore how best to provide support to the LGBT community in the region. We already raise the issue of LGBT rights regularly with the Russian authorities, and will continue to do so at the highest level. We are clear that we consider this to be a human rights issue, and one which needs to be properly addressed.
Q – Jonathan, Wakefield: Given the significance of the European Convention on Human Rights in protecting LGBT people and its role in introducing an equal age of consent and allowing gay people to fight in the military in the UK, can you say that Britain will remain a party to the treaty?
A – Our commitment to equality for LGBT people is unequivocal and will not change, regardless of any changes to the legal framework for rights protection in the UK. That will always be the case whilst I am Prime Minister.
Q – Jake, London: Following in the footsteps of Scotland and Wales, when will NHS England do the right thing and increase the availability of PrEP to gay men at disproportionate risk of contracting HIV?
A – It’s very important that we continue to tackle HIV, both through prevention and by research into effective treatments. That’s why we’re providing new funding for development of local initiatives that help stop the spread of HIV. In December we announced that NHS England will fund a large-scale clinical trial of PrEP, and we’ve allocated up to £10 million over the next three years for that. This should answer some of the outstanding implementation questions, paving the way for a full roll-out.
Q – Anthony, London: I would very much like to start a family with my fiancé and we are exploring the possibility of having a child via a surrogate mother with my sister as the egg donor. It will only be possible for us to have a baby this way via IVF. However, as we are a gay male couple, we are not entitled to any IVF support on the NHS, unlike straight or lesbian couples. As a doctor working in the NHS, I am well aware of the strain on our services but I also know that it is important to fairly allocate resources. I’m sure that you will agree that we have the same rights to start a family as any other loving couple, so should the NHS provide IVF to us as well as straight and lesbian couples?
A – The independent National Institute for Clinical Excellence sets the guidelines on the availability of IVF, and it’s then up to local NHS commissioning groups to determine how to allocate resources locally, but the guidelines do allow for same-sex couples to access IVF, which I know is very important to many couples. I don’t want to comment on your particular case without knowing more details, but I certainly agree that the most important thing is to give a child the stability of a loving home, whether their parents are gay or straight. I wish you and your fiancé all the very best with starting a family.
Q – (Many readers): Will a Conservative government introduce compulsory LGBT-inclusive sex and relationship education in schools?
A – We added provisions to the Children and Social Work Bill earlier this year to put relationship and sex education on a statutory footing so every child has access to age-appropriate provision. I think that’s an important step forward, and opens the way for us to issue new guidance on what should be taught, including issues of sexuality, within the context of relationships. We will now consult widely on the exact content of that guidance, but I’m clear that it should properly prepare young people for the modern world. Stonewall and other relevant groups have welcomed this change, and I hope they will engage positively to help us ensure that LGBT issues are appropriately included.
Q – David, Hove: A variety of countries offer Gender X passports for people who do not conform to binary gender identities. Will you commit the UK government to follow New Zealand and Australia in introducing these types of passport options? Would you consider the recommendations of the Women and Equalities Select Committee to make government forms and paperwork as gender neutral as possible?
A – As part of our Transgender Action Plan we are conducting a review of gender requirements on government forms and paperwork, because I know this is a concern for trans people and those with different gender identities. Legally recognising a new third category is a broader issue than just changing passports, and that needs to be properly considered across government before we propose any changes.
Q – Jenny, Durham: The Green Party, Labour, and Liberal Democrats have all nominated openly transgender candidates for the 2017 General Election. Why is it that the Conservative party so far has not despite having trans* members wanting to stand for election?
A – It’s great that we have trans members who want to stand, and I commend the LGBT+ Conservatives group for its work in encouraging and supporting all our LGBT candidates. In recent years we’ve made great progress in selecting a more diverse range of candidates – which is something I’ve been personally championing since I was Chairman of the Party 15 years ago. It’s the reason I helped set up Women2Win in 2005 and have supported other initiatives to broaden our pool of potential candidates. At the last General Election we had the most out LGBT candidates of any party, and at this election we’ve selected some excellent new ones too. So I’ve no doubt we will see transgender candidates selected in future.
Q – Elizabeth, London: In 2015, David Cameron pledged to PinkNews that he would take action if gay cure therapy wasn’t wiped out in the UK. Would you commit to make it illegal to offer services that claim to “cure” homosexuality to young people as is the case in several jurisdictions around the world?
A – I think this is something we need to keep under close review, because – quite rightly – it is a concern for many people. We secured a memorandum of understanding in 2015 between therapeutic organisations and NHS England to condemn these practices and make clear they are unethical, damaging and are not supported by any evidence. Being gay or trans is not an illness, and shouldn’t be treated as such – young people should be protected from attempts to change who they are. We’re looking carefully at the extent of the problem, and the experience of other countries that have introduced bans, to ensure we get the approach to this right.
Q – Jasmine, Crewkerne: LGBT people are disproportionately likely to be homeless. What are your views on homelessness in the UK? Do you believe any changes you’ve made or intend to make will help save homeless people?
A – This is an important issue, and since 2010 we’ve been working to help prevent vulnerable people from becoming homeless and support those who do end up on the streets. That’s why we supported Bob Blackman’s Homelessness Reduction Act, and are protecting the homelessness prevention funding that goes to local authorities, which will be £315 million by 2020. LGBT people are often particularly at risk, and we encourage local authorities to work with great charities like the Albert Kennedy Trust, who do excellent work on this issue.
Q – Jack, London: Would you attend Pride in London, or a local Pride event?
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A – I’m always keen to support LGBT events, and have actually attended Pride in London before, a few years ago. I also helped launch our own Pride event at the party conference in 2009, which has now become a popular annual fixture. Pride events remain very important as an expression of LGBT identity, and to keep people focused on the many challenges that still remain. I’m very happy to consider any future invitations, and will also continue hosting representatives of LGBT groups and Pride organisers from around the UK at Downing Street.
Q – Ben, London: Who would you say is your Gay Icon and why?
A – This could be a very quick way of losing votes! I’m not sure what the criteria are for icon status, but I’m very pleased we have so many inspirational LGBT people in business, the arts and public life. Across the parties there are lots of brilliant out politicians, but I hope they’ll forgive me if I highlight our own Ruth Davidson, who is doing a brilliant job in Scotland and is a superb role model.
PinkNews readers’ Q&As: