Theresa May sacks equalities chief Justine Greening, leaving LGBT reforms up in the air
Justine Greening, the most senior out politician in the country, has been sacked as equalities chief by Theresa May.
Ms Greening, who came out in 2016, was today dramatically sacked as Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities.
She was offered a move to another role by the PM – but quit the government rather than allow herself to be moved out of the brief.
The move throws ongoing key initiatives on LGBT rights into uncertainty, as Ms Greening had been the driving force behind plans for LGBT-inclusive sex education and gender recognition reform.
Just last month the Education Secretary launched a consultation on the future of sex and relationship education in schools.
The consultation was aimed at “inviting views on age-appropriate content” on LGBT issues, as as well as on mental wellbeing and staying safe online.
The future of the reforms will now depend on the incoming minster.
Ms Greening, a moderate conservative, had clashed with the PM over the party’s commitment to expanding grammar schools.
And hostile media coverage also led to work on transgender issues being stalled.
Last year Ms Greening had announced plans to review the Gender Recognition Act, a 2004 law that allows transgender people to gain legal recognition.
LGBT advocates had called for the law to be streamlined to reduce the hurdles that transgender people have to jump through to get a Gender Recognition Certificate, adopting a simpler ‘self-declaration’ system that operates in Ireland and other countries across Europe.
But the review was reportedly stalled last month after an anti-transgender media campaign, with The Times reporting that the issue’s “complex and divisive” nature had led to plans being stalled.
And Tory MPs have pressed for the issue to be dropped entirely.
Conservative MP David Davies, a strong opponent of transgender equality, called on the government to axe the plan to avoid giving rights to people who are “effectively cross-dressers”.
He said: “Given the delay to this and the fact that many LGBT campaigners are opposed to this, I would urge the government to think again.
“Although there is obvious need to protect someone who is transgender from bullying and victimisation… it’s also important that we don’t allow women’s rights to be trampled on to allow those who are effectively cross-dressers to enter places, such as changing rooms, hospital wards and prisons, where women would expect privacy.”
The decision to shelve the review comes after a transgender ‘moral panic’ in the media which has seen relentless weekly stories targeting transgender people.
The stream of stories have led of a flood of complaints to press regulators IPSO and Impress, but no newspaper has thus far been sanctioned for its coverage.
Greening became the first out woman to serve in the Cabinet when she came out during 2016’s Pride in London celebrations.
Addressing the decision at the PinkNews Awards, she explained: “I realised I needed to be part of moving things on.”
Greening told the audience: “I received so much support. It really inspired me to do all I can.”
She also paid tribute to her colleagues in Parliament, saying: “The best thing is, there are now so many politicians in our Parliament who are part of this cause and changing things for the better.
“In the end, that moves things on.”
Greening revealed: “I’m not someone who ever wanted to go into politics, but I decided to make a difference.
She added: “I passionately believe that a country’s greatest asset is its people and you can only be your best if you can be yourself.”
And presenting the Broadcast Award to Maajid Nawaz and Lorraine Kelly, the Education Secretary emphasised that the media portraying LGBT people turns ‘them’ into ‘us’.
Ms Greening came out on the day of Pride in London in 2016, tweeting: “Today’s a good day to say I’m in a happy same sex relationship, I campaigned for Stronger In but sometimes you’re better off out!”
In an interview with the Evening Standard, Ms Greening revealed that she has been in a relationship with partner Tess for “several” years but had not chosen to make it public until she rose to the Cabinet.
Earlier this year, Ms Greening urged the Church to “keep up” with modern society’s acceptance of same-sex marriage.
Greening said it was “quite important that we recognise that for many churches, including the Church of England, that was something they were not yet willing to have in their own churches.”
However, she added: “I think it is important that the Church in a way keeps up and is part of a modern country.
“I wouldn’t prescribe to them how they should deal with that.
“But I do think we are living in a country where people broadly recognise that attitudes are in different place now to where they were many, many years ago.”
Greening continued: “We have allowed same-sex marriage, that’s a massive step forward for the better.
“For me, I think people do want to see our major faiths keep up with modern attitudes in our country.”