Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has answered questions from PinkNews readers on LGBT rights ahead of the General Election.
The Labour leader is the latest to take part in our series of readers’ Q&As, answering tough questions over past ties to Iran and his response to homophobic persecution in Chechnya.
Q – Matt, Dagenham: What action can be taken to extend the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 to cover Northern Ireland, where same-sex marriage is still illegal?
A – I strongly support and have campaigned for marriage equality all my life. Ireland’s popular vote to legalise same-sex marriage was a huge triumph for equality and justice.
Whilst this is a devolved issue, a Labour government will work with the Northern Ireland Assembly for change.
Q – Lex, Lowestoft: Theresa May, Tim Farron and even Paul Nuttall have condemned the persecution of gay men in Chechnya. Why haven’t you?
A – Reports from Chechnya about the torture and persecution of gay men have been truly appalling. Instead of stepping in to protect citizens and uphold people’s human rights, the Russian federal government is at best turning a blind eye.
I absolutely condemn homophobic persecution Chechnya, as I condemn homophobic persecution and all forms of persecution everywhere. Emily Thornberry MP and Sarah Champion MP wrote to Theresa May on 21st April 2017 calling for an urgent UN investigation so that those responsible for these horrific crimes can be held to account.
I agree with LGBT groups and human rights organisations that the Conservative government should have made immediate interventions to the Russian government and condemned this grotesque treatment. Instead, the days of silence were deafening.
Q – Myles, Northallerton: What action would your government take to tackle the persecution of gay men in Chechnya?
A – Labour has a proud record of championing the fight for LGBT equality both at home and abroad. As Prime Minister I would condemn these attacks and raise them with the Russian authorities, requesting a full accounting of LGBT individuals detained in Chechnya. I have called for an urgent UN investigation so that those responsible for this horrific abuse can be held account for their crimes.
PinkNews readers’ Q&As:
Q – John, London: You have long been a supporter of LGBT rights and have the thanks of the community for that. However, some have questioned your commitment, citing your previous work with Iranian state television and speeches at Khomeinist rallies. While you are not expected to approve of all aspects of people with whom you have dialogue, you worked for and were paid by these anti-LGBT bodies. What is your response to those in the LGBT community who are angry about this?
A – I have consistently campaigned and voted for equal rights for LGBT people, since the early 1980s when I was first elected. We were just a small minority standing up for LGBT rights in Parliament then. The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 was a huge victory which shows how far we have come.
I do understand the concerns, but I think it was right to try to engage with Iran and raise issues of human rights there and around the world. When editorial limitations were placed upon me, I stopped working with them. The Iranian government has perpetrated abuses against LGBT individuals and many others. I believe Britain should be doing it all it can to pressure all governments, including Iran, to respect and uphold universal human rights, for which support for LGBT rights is vital.
Q – Alice, Durham: The UK has made great progress with pro-LGBT legislation in recent decades, but what can now be done here and abroad to guarantee future progress?
A – Huge strides have been made on LGBT equality in this country and abroad, both in terms of legal rights, and visibility. Labour has a proud record of championing the fight for LGBT equality. Every progressive piece of equality legislation has been delivered by Labour. But whilst we’ve come a long way, there is still more to be done.
The Conservatives have failed to commit to LGBT Equality, whether that’s over the party’s vote against an equal age of consent or Theresa May’s own threat to remove us from the European Convention on Human Rights, a key piece of LGBT legislation.
A Labour government will keep the Human Rights Act and maintain the UK as a signatory to the European Convention of Human Rights. We will ensure that LGBT people who have fled persecution and seek asylum in the UK are treated with fairness and respect, including by not exacerbating the abuse they have experienced by placing them in detention centres.
We will appoint a dedicated global ambassador on LGBT rights to fight discrimination and promote equality globally.
The Conservatives’ cuts to local government funding has resulted in cutbacks to LGBT services, despite rising demand. Many have had to scale back and some have been forced to close their doors altogether. By protecting funding for local government, Labour will enable councils to keep open these crucial lifelines for the vulnerable parts of the LGBT community.
The Albert Kennedy Trust and Stonewall Housing have reported significant increases in the number of young LGBT homeless people, who have been forced from their homes because their parents don’t accept their sexuality. They estimate that LGBT people make up 24% of the youth homeless population in Britain. Labour in government will set out a national plan to end rough sleeping within the next Parliament, starting by making 4,000 additional homes available for people with a history of rough sleeping. We will also work with LGBT organisations to tackle homelessness among LGBT youth in particular and ensure young LGBT people can access the support they need.
Q – Josh, Bradford-on-Avon: Sex and relationship education fit for the 21st century is rightly a major point of discussion ahead of the General Election. How important is it for you that this education be LGBT+ inclusive?
A – Labour has been campaigning for compulsory Sex and Relationship Education for years, which the Conservatives opposed until recently. It is vital that we build on recent advances to develop an inclusive, age-appropriate education programme on sex, relationship and consent, compulsory for all children within all state-funded schools. We will also equip teachers to tackle homophobic, transphobic and biphobic bullying in schools.
Q – Jake, York: Will you ensure protections for non-binary people by updating the Equality Act to include this minority group?
A – I’m pleased that in Labour’s manifesto for government we have pledged to reform the Gender Recognition Act and the Equality Act 2010 to ensure they protect non-binary people. Central to this will be changing the protected characteristic of ‘gender assignment’ to ‘gender identity’ and removing outdated language such as ‘transsexual.’
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 – Recognition of trans and non-binary people continues to be an significant issue. People must be able to identify as they see themselves, without having binaries imposed upon them. People’s own self-identification must be respected by others. That’s why I’m pleased we committed in our manifesto that Labour in government will update legal protections for the trans community by rewriting the Equality Act and other laws to specifically protect gender identity. This will of course inform the mechanisms of government forms and documents to make them as gender neutral as possible.
Q – Bryn, Coventry: The Gender Recognition Act 2004 was a landmark piece of legislation to improve the lives of trans people, but there is still much work to be done. Will Labour change the process of obtaining a gender recognition certificate so that it is based on self-declaration?
A – There is a lot more we need to do to improve the lives of transgender people.
The Gender Recognition Act was an important step forward for trans equality, but 13 years on, we should consider how to make the legislation more relevant and responsive to the concerns of trans people. I’m pleased in our manifesto pledges to reform the Gender Recognition Act and Equality Act to ensure they specifically protect gender identity.
Q – Claire, Hayes: In the wave of anti-European sentiment accompanying Brexit, there has been talk of the UK withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights, which has been crucial to many advances in LGBT rights. What will you do to ensure that these rights are protected after Brexit?
A – Since the vote to leave the European Union, not only have we witnessed a rise in hate crimes against religious and ethnic minority groups, but an increase in hate crime against LGBT people. This has been deeply disturbing. Now more than ever we should champion legislation that guarantees the rights and freedoms of vulnerable people and minority groups. Threats made by politicians, most notably Theresa May, to withdraw the UK from the European Convention on Human Rights, is an attack on these protections.
A Labour government will remain committed to this important legislation. We will keep the Human Rights Act and maintain the UK as a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights. Labour will bring the law on LGBT hate crimes into line with hate crimes based on race and faith, by making them aggravated offence.
Q – Kate, Hertfordshire: In your manifesto, you have pledged a completion of the NHS England PrEP trial programme “as quickly as possible” to fully roll out the treatment to high-risk groups to help reduce HIV infection. Can you say how long this will take and why such a trial is needed, given the existing availability in Scotland?
A – Preventing the spread of HIV is vital for everyone. We will support the NHS in their efforts to develop new ground breaking treatments. Many councils want to work with the NHS providers to roll out the PrEP trial. Labour is committed to ensure this happens quickly and effectively. NHS England is separate from NHS Scotland, and it is right that these decisions are taken by NHS professionals rather than by politicians.
A Labour government will maintain our commitment to improve sexual health services, especially HIV services which will include reducing the rates of undiagnosed and late-diagnosed HIV, ending the stigma of HIV in society, and promoting the increased availability of testing and treatment.
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 – If you’re LGBT, it doesn’t mean you have to go through life without having a family of your own. The options available to potential gay and lesbian parents are wider now than ever before. The independent National Institute for Clinical Excellence do allow for same sex couples to access NHS Fertility Treatment, which is very significant for many couples.
It is of course difficult to comment in much detail on your specific circumstances, but I agree a loving home is the best environment for bringing up children. I wish you well on starting your own family.
Q – Elizabeth, London: Last year during PinkNews Live, you condemned gay cure therapies. Unfortunately, this terrible practice still occurs. Would you commit to making it illegal to offer services that claim to “cure” homosexuality to young people as is the case in several jurisdictions around the world?
A – It’s deeply concerning that in 2015 there’s still a belief, held by some, that gay people can be “cured”. And it absolutely goes without saying that we must challenge such views. Labour will ensure everyone is free to be themselves, and unethical practices to change people are rooted out.
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Q – Ben, London: Who would you say is your Gay Icon and why?
A – I admire Oscar Wilde for his courage and the brilliance of his work, Alan Turing for his genius in unlocking the enigma code, Virginia Woolf for her powerful and inspiring writing, and Freddie Mercury for his wonderful music.
PinkNews readers’ Q&As: