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Theresa May’s letter to the LGBT community criticised as ’empty PR’ by Labour MP

Jess Glass May 24, 2018
Prime Minister Theresa May

Prime Minister Theresa May signed the law in 2017 (DARREN STAPLES/AFP/Getty)

Prime Minister Theresa May’s recent letter to the LGBT community has been criticised as an empty gesture by Labour’s shadow equalities minister, Dawn Butler.

On Thursday, the Prime Minister penned a letter in Gay Times marking the 30th anniversary of the introduction of Section 28 and the beginning of Pride month.

In the letter, May reaffirmed her commitment to advocating for trans rights – despite strong political backlash and negative media coverage – stating that transgender people “deserve respect” and announcing new policy.

She said: “We will also publish an LGBT Action Plan this summer. It will set out concrete steps the Government will take to improve lives for LGBT people in this country and address some of the injustices the community has faced.

(DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty)

The Prime Minister continued: “We’ve also engaged with experts to understand better the limitations of the current system of gender recognition and will soon publish a public consultation on how we best reform the process.

“Trans people still face indignities and prejudice when they deserve understanding and respect.

“There’s lots to do – but the UK can be proud that we are a world leader in advancing LGBT rights.”

(Simon Dawson/Getty)

However, the Prime Minister’s letter has been criticised by some LGBT rights campaigners, who called on the government to act upon their statements rather than simply repeating them.

The Shadow Secretary of State for Women and Equalities Dawn Butler hit out at the letter, stating: “All this Government seems to do is make announcements about future announcements, it’s just empty PR.

“Theresa May announced a consultation on the Gender Recognition Act last August, but nearly a year later it hasn’t even started.”

The consultation on gender recognition reform was expected to launch last year but has been stalled for months amid negative media coverage.

The government recently said it would be published before Parliament’s summer recess in July.

Labour's Dawn Butler (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)
Dawn Butler (Jack Taylor/Getty)

Butler added: “We need to see deeds, not just words, from the Conservatives. Today marks 30 years since Thatcher’s Government introduced the cruel Section 28, a grim moment in our country’s history, which was defended by Theresa May.”

Exclusive: I was a lesbian teacher under Section 28 and it was absolutely frightening

In 2000, May voted to maintain Section 28, a piece of legislation that prevented the “promotion of homosexuality” in schools, which was later repealed in 2003.

In 2009, as leader of the Conservatives, David Cameron formally apologised on the behalf of the party for introducing the legislation, calling it “a mistake.”

In an opinion piece for PinkNews in July 2017, May, too, admitted that the choices made by the Conservatives previously does not reflect where the party is now.

“But like the country we serve, my party and I have come a long way,” May wrote at the time. “From my perspective, if those votes were today of course I would vote differently.”

Veteran LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell criticised the Prime Minister over the delays to reforming the Gender Recognition Act, a fact that the Parliament equalities chief Maria Miller recently blamed on government instability.

Tatchell said: “Reforming the gender recognition process for trans people was agreed in principle ages ago. The planned new public consultation looks like a delaying tactic and a sop to anti-trans campaigners.

“Theresa May has declined to make equality and diversity lessons mandatory in every school, to reduce homophobic bullying and hate crime. That’s a big fail.”

Peter Tatchell (Getty)

May has spoken about the need for more education of LGBT-related issues in schools.

In her PinkNews Awards speech last October, she said: “We need to keep up our action, so we are pressing ahead with inclusive relationship and sex education in English schools, making sure that LGBT issues are taught well. We’re determined to eradicate homophobic and transphobic bullying.”

In a recent video to mark the launch of School Diversity Week, an initiative to tackle homophobia in schools and teach inclusivity, May reaffirmed her commitment to LGBT education.

“We need to eradicate homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools,” May said.

More: gender recognition act, LGBT, Politics, Section 28, Theresa May, Trans, UK

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