A blog for the socially and politically conscious, written by a young, gay activist who strongly believes in equality and justice.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Tory Britain bad news for LGBT voters

Nearly a third of David Cameron's shadow cabinet voted against gay rights legislation at some point over the last two parliaments, demonstrating their "shameful" record in tackling discrimination, according to the Liberal Democrats. They have compiled research on four examples of legislation where many Tories voted against equal rights laws. Chris Huhne, the Lib Dem home affairs spokesman, said progress on gay rights would "grind to a halt" if the Conservatives won the election. "The Tory record on supporting gay rights is nothing short of shameful," he said. The Lib Dem research shows Ten out of 32 members of the shadow cabinet voted against at least one piece of gay rights legislation. The shadow Europe minister, Mark Francois, voted against all four. David Cameron, Kenneth Clarke, Mark Francois, Chris Grayling, William Hague, Francis Maude, Patrick McLoughlin, Andrew Mitchell, George Osborne and Sir George Young voted against legislation to repeal section 28, which had banned local authorities and schools from "promoting" homosexuality, in 2003. Nineteen members of the shadow cabinet joined the attempt to block the equality bill, which included a requirement for all publicly funded bodies to promote equality.

Four of the shadow cabinet voted against powers which passed through the house in March 2007 giving the secretary of state the ability to bring in regulations with a new definition of discrimination and harassment on grounds of sexual orientation. Thirty-five Tory MPs voted to allow only heterosexual married couples to adopt in 2002 and a third also voted against the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations in March 2007, allowing the government to make regulations defining discrimination and harassment on grounds of sexual orientation. This week Nick Clegg has made a claim for some of the UK's sizeable "pink vote" with an interview in Attitude magazine. The Lib Dem leader is working hard to distinguish himself from the Conservatives after Cameron used his new year message to appeal to Lib Dems and claim he has turned the Tory party into the natural home for "liberal Conservatives". Clegg proposed a series of measures including reversing the ban on gay men being allowed to give blood; a requirement that faith schools implement "anti-homophobia bullying policies" and teach that homosexuality is "normal and harmless"; a change in the law to allow civil partnerships to be regarded as marriage; and a guarantee of asylum to refugees who have fled a country because of persecution over their sexual orientation.

The Conservative Party's election manifesto promises that married couples and gay couples in civil partnerships will receive tax breaks within the first five years of parliament. Tory leader David Cameron has been careful to include civil partners in remarks about the proposed benefits. The Daily Mail reports that the manifesto, to be released on Friday, contains a "cast-iron pledge" to give financial benefits to gay and straight couples who stay together. Cameron was forced to admit he "messed up" over the plans, when he said in an interview recently he "hoped" to implement the tax break changes after promising he would. However, he has not given clear details of how the scheme will work, such as what would happen in the case of a couple who divorced or had their civil partnership dissolved. Labour has attacked the plans, saying they make other types of families, such as separated ones, "second class". Other critics have queried whether a small financial incentive would persuade couples to stay together. Unlike other European countries such as Spain and Portugal, gays cannot marry in the UK. Instead, they can have civil partnerships, which grant them all the rights and benefits of marriage without the name.

Forgive me for being a cynical homosexual, but a leapord doesn't change its spots; chances are the Tories will rush to destroy the civil liberties of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) people with the greatest of swift ease. Something tells me (perhaps queer instinct) that a grovelling apology for Section 28 by the same man who aonly a few years previously wanted to keep it in, is nothing more than an opportunistic grab at the voters. Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw has said "a deep strain of homophobia still exists on the Conservative benches". Mr Bradshaw, one of three gay men currently in the cabinet, made the comments as a new poll suggested more gay people were turning to the Tories. Chris Bryant, another gay minister, said: "If gays vote Tory they will rue the day very soon." Of course they profusely denied saying, David Cameron and the Conservative Party have made clear they do not believe that anybody should be disadvantaged on the grounds of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. But what is the truth about our Conservative party in regards to LGBT equality? Are they our friend or foe in the gay world? And though Labour has dedicated massive efforts for LGBT equality progress, will the Tories be the same - or perhaps better?

Roger Helmer, Conservative MEP for the East Midlands, wrote on his blog: “‘Homophobia’ is merely a propaganda device designed to denigrate and stigmatise those holding conventional opinions, which have been held by most people through most of recorded history. It is frightening evidence of the way in which political correctness is threatening our freedom.” Helmer, who is honorary chairman of the right-wing Freedom Association, added: “It is creating ‘thought crimes’, where merely to hold a conventional opinion is seen, in itself, to be unacceptable and reprehensible. I’m sorry, but I don’t buy it. I imagined being verbally and physically abused for being gay. Becoming self-loathing, depressed and suicidal was a figment of my imagination, and I'm actually part of a pseudo-communist conspiracy to take over the world. I admit that not only did this enrage and sadden me, it also made me feel sorry for the sheer idiocy of this individual. Nobody is born with prejudice, they learn it, so why should we put up with the preachings of a silly Tory toff anyway? It seems alarmingly close to the far-right views on homosexuality; now THAT is something worth concern.

David Cameron has insisted the Tories' fascist Polish allies in the European Parliament are not homophobic, even though they oppose gay marriage. Polish MEP Michal Kaminski, who has been accused of homophobia, has said he would consider supporting civil partnerships and will attend Conservative Pride next year. Kaminski, who is a politician for the Law and Justice Party, is the president of the Tories' new bloc in Europe. On the accusation that he used the word 'fags' in a television interview in 2000, Kaminski told interviewer Iain Dale: "I used a word that is un-transferable into English, which homosexual people feel is offensive. So I said that I would never use it again, but it was in common usage at the time – even by the leftist politicians in Poland. We just discovered that the leftwing leader of the Polish parliament during an inquiry meeting used the same word about homosexuals. "Today, we know more about homosexuals, and because they felt offended I said I would never repeat such words, and I think we have to respect people who feel that the language we are using is somehow offensive, and respect their right to be treated with civility."

Cameron also strongly hinted that Ian Duncan Smith would be families and social justice minister if Tories win the next election. This is the same IDS that voted to restore the discriminatory Section 28 policy in, and also strongly opposed gay rights including protection against discrimination. Mr Duncan Smith's backing for the clause, in a free vote, was immediately condemned by modernising Tory MPs and gay rights groups. Stonewall accused him of joining the "bigots" and of being a member of "a small, sad and isolated axis of prejudice". John Bercow, the leading Tory moderniser who voted against the amendment to bring back Section 28, described Mr Duncan Smith's vote as "a desperately backward step". He said: "It's very sad and rather shocking that Iain voted to reinstate a thoroughly offensive piece of legislation. I applauded Iain when he said that the Conservative party should review its stance on Section 28 because Section 28 sent out a message to gay people that Conservatives disliked them. That was true then and it is true now." The Conservative leader was one of 77 MPs ­ most of them Tories ­ to back the restoration of Section 28 to Welsh and English law. The move was defeated by a coal-ition of Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs.

The frontbench Tories, Michael Howard and Michael Ancram were among those to vote with the party leader for an amendment to the local government bill tabled by the former Home Office Minister Ann Widdecombe. During a heated debate, Conservative MPs openly clashed in the chamber. Edward Leigh, the chairman of the public accounts committee, said that Section 28 should be restored because homosexuality was "wrong". "The reason I have put down an amendment to retain Section 28 is that I believe it is right and it represents the views of a majority of the British people," he said. Miss Widdecombe, who has been a staunch opponent of liberalising the law on homosexual rights, was backed in the debate by Julian Brazier, the frontbench Tory MP for Canterbury and Andrew Selous, the MP for South-West Bedfordshire. The Tory frontbench, including David Davis, the former party chairman, attempted to unite the divided party ranks with a "compromise amendment" which would reform sex education in schools. The amendment would have made it a legal obligation to give parents a right to a ballot on the materials used in their children's sex education. Edward Davey, the Liberal Democrat local government spokesman, attacked the Tory plan for ballots as a 'recipe for homophobic behaviour on a grand scale'.

A Tory leader who branded a £400,000 grant to a Bristol gay youth group as an “outrageous waste of money” has ignored calls for his resignation. Critics of a provincial Progressive Conservative party promise to publicly fund religious schools say the plan will only further entrench homophobia. I've probably given you, dear reader, enough evidence to show that the Tories are bigoted, regressive old farts - business as usual in their dreamy world of elitist superiority. In 2007 they attempted to blockade a gay adoption law. Is he opposing it because his party doesn't agree with homosexuality, or is it because he feels it isn't the child's best interests? Or are those two views equal anyway? It is always going to be better for a child to be brought up by a loving couple than in "care". Let's face it, there are not enough heterosexual couples coming forward to adopt (why don't people adopt instead of having a fourth or fifth child of their own?). So, if gay couples are keen to help bring up unwanted children then this should be welcomed. Obviously the old-fashioned CONservatives are still trotting out their prejudices to deny equal civil liberties to minorities. All I can say is God help us all if these knuckle-dragging apes get into power in May. And God help everyone who believed the Tories had started to listen and take note.


Anonymous said...

I can't understand you. You write things like this yet you're massively against Labour, the only party that has ever stuck up for gay rights in this country.

Stewart Cowan said...


To be honest, I don't think the Tories will bother being 'conservative' and reverse any of New Labour's new rules.

You have a problem with freedom because people are not machines; we have consciences. You cannot force people to accept something that they find objectionable.

As for Nick Clegg, he has some very strange ideas about what the liberal party is supposed to be about...

Clegg: faith schools must teach that homosexuality is “normal and harmless”

myinfamy said...

Homosexuality IS normal and harmless - there's no real evidence to prove otherwise. And furthermore the Lib Dems stuck up for gay rights long before Labour did; I dislike Labour now because of the principles of putting profit before people, not their (admittedly excellent) gay rights record in the past thirteen years of government.