Emily Thornberry calls for UK to expel Commonwealth countries with anti-LGBT laws

Emma Powys Maurice July 4, 2019
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Emily Thornberry speaking at the PinkNews event in Westminster, 2019.

The Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry is calling on the UK to demand Commonwealth countries abolish anti-LGBT+ laws or be expelled.

The Labour MP gave an impassioned speech for LGBT+ rights at the PinkNews summer reception at Church House in Westminster, London, on Thursday (July 4).

She said: “If the Commonwealth of Nations mean anything, then we must use our time as chair of the Equal Rights Coalition not just to persuade more Commonwealth countries to join it, but to demand that Commonwealth countries abolish draconian laws or be expelled — and let’s start with Brunei.”

Thornberry said the time had come for Britain to take a “global lead” in tackling LGBT+ persecution, as dozens of countries around the world “are going backwards not forwards.”

The leadership has to come from somewhere, and I believe that it should come from Britain.

In a clear reference to the diminishing rights of LGBT+ people in the US, she said: “At a time when the so-called leader of the free world and his homophobic vice president are legitimising the rollback of LGBT+ rights, the leadership has to come from somewhere, and I believe that it should come from Britain.”

Her words were met with a resounding applause from the audience of politicians and business leaders, including Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the Liberal Democrats’ Chuka Umanna and Michael Gove, who later said: “I agree with every word.”

Thornberry made a pointed comment towards Gove’s work in leading the removal of plastic pollution from oceans, saying: “We proudly talk about the lead we provide on other issues, and when we don’t show global leadership [on LGBT+ rights] we should be ashamed.”

The event was held at Church House in Westminster, London, on Thursday (July 4) to celebrate Pride season and recent legislative successes in the LGBT+ community.

The Westminster reception was supported by lead partner Gilead, supporting partner Octopus Group, and charity partners Pride in London.

The Labour MP also announced nominations for the Business Equality Award and the Role Model Award at this year’s PinkNews Awards in October.

Earlier this year, Thornberry took part in demonstrations outside the Brunei-owned Dorchester hotel in protest at strict Islamic laws which punished gay sex with stoning.

She also wrote to the foreign secretary to call for the prime minister to “take a leading role in condemning these laws and calling for strong action to be taken.”

The bigots and the homophobes have not given up on this fight, so we cannot afford to do so either.

She warned the PinkNews audience that the time for fighting for LGBT+ rights is far from over. She said: “Whenever we’ve had to fight so hard to win rights, we’ve had to fight just as hard to protect them.

“Because whenever you have such entrenched, such violent, such bitter opposition against freedom and rights of any community, the war is never truly, finally won.

“The rights that we win are the rights that we must constantly defend. Because the bigots and the homophobes have not given up on this fight so we cannot afford to do so either.”

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