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Keir Starmer: ‘This is how I’ll put the fight for LGBT+ rights at the core of the Labour Party’

Keir Starmer February 20, 2020
Shadow secretary of state for exiting the European Union, Keir Starmer. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Shadow secretary of state for exiting the European Union, Keir Starmer. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

The race to succeed Jeremy Corbyn as the next leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party has narrowed to just three, one of whom is Keir Starmer. 

As the shadow secretary of state for Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, Starmer launched his leadership bid as one, he says, that will centre LGBT+ rights during the exit from the bloc. 

In an essay for PinkNews, the fore-runner discusses Labour’s track record on queer rights and what issues facing the community he will tackle if elected party leader. 

Labour has been at the forefront of fighting for justice and equality ever since our foundation.

It is at the core of our principles to fight for what is right. And Labour governments have consistently advanced the cause of civil rights.

It was a Labour government that legalised homosexuality.

It was a Labour government that undid Thatcher’s toxic legacy of Section 28.

It was a Labour government that introduced civil partnerships, and without Labour MPs voting heavily for equal marriage rights it would not have become law.

It is fitting that this LGBT History Month there will be a new milestone for equality.

As of February 10th, same-sex couples in Northern Ireland now finally have the same rights as couples elsewhere in the UK – to get married.

Thanks to the work of Labour colleagues Conor McGinn and Stella Creasy, Northern Ireland now has same-sex marriage and abortion access.

Fighting for justice and equality has been at the heart of my career and activism long before I entered parliament.

And fighting for LGBT+ communities would be at the core of my leadership of the Labour Party, if I’m elected.

Labour lawmaker Keir Starmer. (Anthony Devlin/Getty Images)

The next Labour government needs to deliver for LGBT+ communities, at home and abroad.

We need a total roll out of PrEP treatment across England – it simply isn’t right that we are denying gay and bisexual men vital healthcare.

We need LGBT+ inclusive education in every school – and teachers and schools must be defended as they deliver it.

Trans rights are human rights – though the Gender Recognition Act was an important advance, it is clear that more needs to be done.

We must listen to the concerns of the trans community and their voices must be central in our policy making. We need to reform the GRA to include self-identification and legal recognition of non-binary gender identities.

Keir Starmer: I am proud of my record of fighting for LGBT+ rights.

Before entering parliament, I supported the campaign to get LGBT+ people the right to serve in the military.

I worked with the Human Dignity Trust – which I spoke about at the PinkNews awards last year – which challenge homophobic laws across the Commonwealth.

We have a duty to fight for LGBT+ people across the globe, especially in Commonwealth countries who have legacy laws from the time of the British Empire oppressing LGBT+ people to this day.

I worked in Jamaica with a young man who was challenging the law that made him a criminal – just for being gay. That law was imposed from Britain – and it still harms LGBT+ people in Jamaica today.

(BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
(BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)

We couldn’t even bring him to the hearing as it would have put his life at risk to be seen in court.

Labour is a proudly internationalist party, and we need to fight for the rights of LGBT+ people no matter where they happened to be born.

I would put fighting for human rights at the centre of the Department for International Development.

In the UK, failings of the Conservative and Coalition governments have left LGBT+ people worse off. Whether it is the lack of resources for mental health support, or housing crisis – Tory austerity hits LGBT+ communities hardest.

It is a disgrace that in the 21st century LGBT+ people are disproportionately suffering bullying and abuse.

Stonewall’s research shows that nearly half of LGBT+ young people are bullied for being themselves at school and one in five LGBT+ people have been the victim of a hate crime or incident in the last year.

For the sake of equality and justice we in Labour must unite – and focus on the future to win again and deliver for LGBT+ communities.

More: Keir Starmer, labour leadership contest, Labour party

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