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Labour leader Keir Starmer pleads with people to ‘stop chucking bricks at each other’ in trans rights debate

Vic Parsons June 29, 2020
Keir Starmer: Trans rights should not be 'a political football'

Keir Starmer said framing trans rights as being in conflict with women's rights is "completely wrong". (Getty/Robert Perry)

Labour leader Keir Starmer says that the “way forward” for trans rights in the UK is for “everybody to stop chucking bricks at each other”.

Starmer made the comments on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme and also rejected the framing of trans rights as being in “conflict” with women’s rights.

“I’m convinced there’s a way forward here if everybody is prepared to stop chucking bricks at each other, have a mature conversation and not treat it as a political football,” Starmer said.

He added: “And I think the sooner we get to that the better.”

The Labour leader’s comments come after frontbencher Lloyd Russell-Moyle was forced to apologise to Harry Potter author JK Rowling for accusing her of using her experience of domestic abuse to “justify” discrimination against trans people.

Starmer said he had accepted Russell-Moyle’s apology: “He was wrong to say that and he has apologised for it and I’ve accepted that apology.”

Starmer was being questioned about the Gender Recognition Act (GRA), the 2004 law that governs how trans people in the UK gain legal gender recognition.

Recent leaked reports in the Sunday Times suggest that the Conservative government has dropped plans to reform the GRA and will instead roll back trans rights, barring trans women from women’s single-sex spaces like public bathrooms and changing rooms.

Asked by the BBC’s Nick Robinson what his “judgment call on… the conflict between two sets of rights: trans rights and women’s rights to safe space” was, Starmer said that asking “which side are you on” is “the wrong question”.

“I think the trans community deserve more protection that they’ve got,” Keir Starmer said.

“I don’t think the legislation goes far enough. That then takes us into difficult questions. Let’s take those difficult questions in a mature, calm way without taking sides.”

Starmer continued: “Treating this as a political football, which is what’s happened over recent months, is completely the wrong way forward.

“There’s a better way and that is to reflect and do it in a mature, I would hope cross-party, basis.

“The entrenchment doesn’t protect the trans community. It doesn’t protect some women who are completely concerned about safe spaces. Let’s have the conversation.”

Ten days ago, trans and non-binary Labour members accused Starmer of a “complicit silence” in the face of reports the Tories plan to attack trans rights.

The activists pleaded with him and shadow minister for women and equalities Marsha de Cordova to speak up for trans rights.

Several trans Labour activists told PinkNews that Starmer’s “deafening silence” on the issue meant their membership is “hanging by a thread”.

The government is expected to publish its response to a public consultation on proposed reforms of the GRA before the summer recess on July 21.

More: BBC, gender recognition act, GRA Reform, Keir Starmer, Labour, Marsha de Cordova, nick robinson

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