Justine Greening: I want the DUP to change their minds on LGBT rights
Education Secretary Justine Greening has denounced the DUP’s homophobic views, after her government struck a confidence and supply deal with the party.
After failing to win an overall majority at the election, Theresa May was forced to sign a $1 billion deal with Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party to prop up her government – despite the deep anti-LGBT views within the party.
Ms Greening, the Conservative Education Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, condemned the DUP’s views on The Times Red Box podcast.
The politician, who came out herself last year, said the party’s views were “clearly a concern for people like me”.
She said: “What’s interesting to me is the DUP have their views, but in this Parliament, there’s absolutely in the minority.
“We’ve never had more LGBT MPs and I think that the other big change for the better is that there’s a cross-party consensus for moving forward on LGBT rights.
“We don’t need the DUP to support that, although I hope at some point, we’ll see their attitudes steadily change, as I’d want to see with lots of people who don’t buy into LGBT rights in the UK change.”
She added: “In the meantime, you know what? We can push on with all of the agenda we’ve got. We didn’t need the DUP votes for that in the past, and we won’t need them in the future.
“Just look at the groundbreaking step forward on relationship and sex education being made compulsory in all secondary schools, and relationship education in primary schools. That’s something that’s been stuck for years, and coming into this role I just felt it was something we needed to unblock.
“We did that on a cross-party basis, and actually it’s quite important for these sorts of issues, that we do bring the whole of Parliament with us.
“There will always be some MPs, for whatever reason, who don’t buy into it, but they’re not going to hold us back.”
The minister also confirmed she sought assurances from the PM on equality, after Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson confirmed she had also done so.
Ms Greening said:”I spoke to both the Prime Minister and [Tory chief whip] Gavin Williamson… I think we were very clear from the word go, both within our party and with the DUP, that there’d be no backsliding on LGBT rights.
“I felt it was absolutely critical. We can’t have made the amount of progress we’ve made, and then see that suddenly taken back in, in any way.
“In fact, I think if anything, this deal has underlined the determination across government that, whatever the politics of our current situation, there is some consensus to keep pushing forward on LGBT issues.”
The minister also hinted that she would press on equal marriage in Northern Ireland, where the DUP has employed peace process powers to block democratic votes in Parliament.
She said: “We had some steps forward in relation to women from Northern Ireland being able to get abortions in England, which I think was really important, and I hope this debate about LGBT rights across the UK will continue to make progress, including in places like Northern Ireland.
“I’ll certainly be a voice for progress in the coming months and years. I can assure you of that, whichever role I’m in.”