The Birmingham special LibDem conference was pretty special. In a party that has always been (for lack of better terminology) left of centre – it was very life affirming to see that Liberal Democrats en mass got it. We all understood – not only that coalition with the Conservatives was the best and only game in town – but that you cannot believe in Proportional Representation which always results in balanced parliaments – and then say – don’t like them – not doing it.

Watching and listening to my colleagues, one by one, give heartfelt voice to their thoughts, their journeys and their concerns – was a very moving experience. And in the end – of around 2000 LibDems attending – only about 12 voted against.

One of the amendments to the motion for coalition was to reaffirm our commitment to the Lesbian, Gay, B and Trans communities – so obviously – I put a card in and spoke to that. I made it clear – to the delight of the assembled ranks – that there would be no roll back of equalities on my watch.

What was interesting though, is that I read out four manifesto commitments:

– Change the rules for gay people fleeing persecution to be granted asylum

– fight for unequivocal support for gay rights around the world, and use international groups like the Commonwealth to put pressure on countries to tackle persecution of LGB and T people

– change the law to remove the requirement to disclose historical convictions for consensual gay sex

– tackle homophobic bullying including a new category of exclusion data specifically for homophobic abuse

The shocking thing about the above four manifesto pledges above – is that they come from the Conservative manifesto – not ours!

I know there has been a lot of concern as to Theresa May’s track record on voting on LGB and T issues – and indeed a facebook group against her has already grown to around 50,000. She crucially voted the right way – for civil partnerships. And I believe that she and the Conservatives will use the opportunity of this coalition with us – to move forward. Time will tell. But it is easy in the Liberal Democrats to be liberal – Theresa has had a much harder road in the Conservatives to bring change. So I give her and the Conservatives the benefit of any doubt to be new Conservatives – shedding hopefully their old reputation – and moving into the light with us!

I think there is a genuine desire to work together and I go forward in good heart.

0 thoughts on “Equalities

  1. Hi Lynne,

    I think it’s brilliant that you’re so determined to continue fighting for equality for the LGBT community as well as women & other marginalised groups whilst being part of this coalition. I think it will prove to be invaluable in terms of both defining the Lib Dems as a separate political force from the Conservatives and also as a means of ensuring that some of the dyed in the wool members of the blue team aren’t able to resurrect such hideously discriminatory pieces of legislation as Section 28.

    I also admire the fact that you are willing to give Theresa May the benefit of the doubt and I think it highlights one of the greatest strengths within the Lib Dems as a whole, which is the ability to give people a chance and judge them fairly. I can’t say that I would be able to do the same in your shoes, but I admire you for being willing to do it and I hope that she proves that she deserved the chance in the end.

  2. I am one of the many in the Facebook group but I’m hugely encouraged by your blog post. I have the luxury of having next to no power whatsoever so I can indulge my knee-jerk reactions but it is so good to see that you are taking a much more positive approach. Thank you, I’m sure you’re going to be an excellent Minister. (Just so it’s clear, that’s all completely genuine and not sarcastic).

    While it’s great to see those commitments from the Conservatives, they are rather light on helping the trans community, who probably suffer more than any other in this country (the statistics on suicide attempts and transphobic crime are heart-breaking). Please could you work hard for them? We need to communicate that it is totally unacceptable to be transphobic – including in comedy. So often trans people are used for a cheap laugh in a way that’s seen as totally unacceptable for gay people or racial minorities.

    I also hope that equality for disabled people comes into your portfolio as there’s still a lot of work to be done there. It may become particularly important for people with invisible disabilities which stop them from working (especially mental health-related disability) if the benefit system is going to be drastically reformed.

  3. Nice one Lynne, it’s good to see this going forward with a spirit of co-operation. Hopefully you and Theresa discover enough common ground to work with constructively.

  4. Beautifully put. I am of the ‘hopeful’ camp on this coalition, looking forward to seeing how ‘change’ looks now that we have it.

    On equality (and slightly off your blog topic), it would be encouraging to see some of the practices and behaviour of government, change too. As a female with an interest in politics, I have been put-off furthering any ambition because I could not bare the ugliness of the work.

    The behaviour during PMQ, the brutality and invasion of the media, the way attacks are used to further the parties (and never for the benefit of the people), are so alien to how I would choose to spend a working day. Surely better, more civilised working practices would encourage an improved, more constructive atmosphere for all politicians?

    Happy you have a role with influence Lynne and I wish you every success… for us 🙂


    Tina Louise

  5. Hi Lynne,
    Thank you for pledging your commitment to LGBT equality. Can you review Kiana Firouz’s case please?

    ( http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/Save-Kiana-Firouz/113229802051905 )

    She is an Iranian lesbian asylum seeker who lost her case. For her to be deported will certainly place her life in danger.

    Granting Kiana asylum in the UK will go a long way in demonstrating the Home Office’s commitment to helping LGBT asylum seekers.

    Kindest regards,

  6. Hi Lynne,

    I’m emailing concerning the first of the manifesto points you discuss above and asking for you to take this issue as far as you can, which is that of Kiana-Firouz the LGBT film-maker and activist and her possible deportation back to Iran, where the minimum punishment for homosexuality is 100 lashes. The punishment for “unrepentant” homosexuality, which Firouz’s LGBTQ activism clearly demonstrates, is public execution by hanging.

    I’ve raised this with
    http://www.delga.org.uk/ and http://www.lgbtory.co.uk/ and also Damien Green and Theresa May. I’ve seen nothing about it in the mainstream media.

    As you say in your post, let’s remain positive about Theresa May and encourage her to act in the interests of not just LGTBQ rights but HUMAN rights!

    Kind regards,

    Sarah E Kosminsky
    Lib Dem voter, Ilford North.

  7. Have a look at
    on theyworkforyou.com.
    This is Theresa’s May’s voting record on equality issues. Out of 19 votes she voter in favour of an equality issue once (in favour of civil partnerships). She voted against equality issues 10 times and was absent for 8 votes).

    I’m sure Lynne means it when she says there will be no roll back of equalities on her watch – the only problem is it isn’t her watch. It’s Theresa May’s watch.

  8. “You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things.”

    Shakespeare – Julius Ceasar

  9. All the votes in question were at least two line whips and Theresa May voted with the party line as was required for a front bencher. I notice that the people protesting May’s appointment did not protest Harriet Harman’s to the same post, despite Harman having been a member of a front bench that supported Section 28.

  10. As a Haringey parent and one of your constituents with children in schools in Haringey and Islington I am disgusted at the fact that this government – for all the above prattle about “equality” is already cutting spending on school rebuilding so it can indulge Tory “free schools” fantasies.

    Payback will come, Ms Featherstone

  11. It is very gracious of you to give Theresa May the benefit of the doubt however I don’t need to because my issue is not so much with what she might do in the position of Equality Minister but the gross insult to gay people in having someone with her voting record in that job.

    You might also note that while Theresa May did indeed vote for civil partnerships she also voted to extend the eligibility of said partnerships to include other types of relationship including cohabiting siblings. In other words, she tried to water them down and separate them from indentification as equivalent to marriage. I could not care less if she was following the whip or her own conscience. The appointment is an insult and it suggests that gay people don’t matter.

    As the Lib Dems benefitted from Grayling’s stupid remark in terms of getting gay votes perhaps they would be able to make a this a bit more of a priority. I would also imagine that the people who are joining the facebook group and signing the petition are not all gay but other young people who find it pretty shocking. Grow a backbone and tell them you can’t serve under someone with that voting record. There are other Tories who voted differently.

  12. I should have written that Theresa May was absent for the vote on Categories of civil partners other than same sex couples but her vote for the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill (2008) demonstrates that she sees civil partnerships as being very different to marriages in very important ways, or at least is prepared to vote in a way that would suggest she does.

  13. “Change the rules for gay people fleeing persecution to be granted asylum”

    Wow. That’s a huge pledge.

    Do you realise how many LGBT people across the world face persecution? Two places I’ve spent a lot of time are the Middle east and Africa. They are (almost uniformly) deeply homophobic places where society and state combine to make life intolerable (and potentially deadly) for anyone who dares to come out.

    Do these people deserve our sympathy?

    Of course.

    Do these people deserve our help?

    Yes. We should use whatever tools we have to try to twist the arm of their governments to respect their dignity and Human rights.

    Should the millions of people suffering from such discrimination (and at risk of execution if they publicly come out) be granted indefinite asylum in our country if they were to apply?

    No. Of course not. It’s utterly impractical. There’s simply far, far too many of them.

    If we were to introduce such a policy in public, could you imagine for one moment the reaction of Yoweri Museveni, Yahya Jammeh and Ayatollah Khatemi?

    Lynne, you have your heart in the right place, but this policy is bonkers.

    Be realistic. You’re not in opposition any more.

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  15. Time will indeed tell over whether May can and will change. The symbolism of her appointment is clear to the world…Cameron throwing a (large and juicy) bone to the increasingly confident (Christian) right, Murdoch, et al.

    However, that said, as a trans person, I am really glad that you are there Lynne. The only other option would have been an unrestrained Tory programme, written by The Daily Mail. You have an opportunity here – your area, whilst affected by the draconian cuts that are on their way – will not have its agenda ENTIRELY defined by budgetary issues as other departments may. There remains, irrespective of budgets, the opportunity to keep alive and develop some principles of dignity, fairness and respect to LGBT people. And such things do not cost millions, they simply take understanding and commitment in the face of bigotry.

    I am however worried very much by Cameron’s interest in walking away from European human rights legislation, the UK version of which has helped underpin some of the basic rights trans people are beginning to get.

    And despite the love-in which is currently going on, and which I understand, I do hope that you retain the understanding that there MAY come a point at which you have to resign, if the right wing agenda starts to dominate.

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  17. Lynne,

    May I offer you belated congratulations on both your re-election and your new and well deserved appointment. It is good to know that there is now a true friend of the Trans community in government.

    Best Wishes for the future

  18. I wish I could feel as confident as you about Conservative attitudes, and in particular those of Theresa May.

    As you are aware from your work on the Equality Bill, for which you must be thanked, there is so very much that needs dealing with and far more than the our points you list.

    “you cannot believe in Proportional Representation which always results in balanced parliaments – and then say – don’t like them – not doing it”. I agree with you, but this is a message that has clearly not reached many Lib Dem supporters. But more than that, I think some people have not yet grasped that this will be a more common situation under PR of any sort.

    Hopefully, this coalition will control the excesses of any one party, but only time will tell.

  19. Anonymity for men accused of rape. Suddenly people accused of being rapists are to be privileged by this government. If you had any principles you would have resigned for that alone.

  20. In this day and age, when it is a trivial matter to do a web-search and find someone whose case has been reported, I have seen far too many instances where someone is demonised throughout the case only to find that their later acquittal is not given a similar prominence. The tabloids, and in particular the local press who often appear to have little better to do than to report prominently on local rape cases, do not seem to be too concerned with highlighting the notion of “innocent until proven guilty” in such cases.

    It’s a difficult one – why rape and not other cases? On balance though, since the accuser/victim “benefits” from such protection in rape cases in particular I think it is also justified for the accused. It doesn’t stop people reporting on the case, and reporting the name once a verdict is reached, but it can stop lives of innocents being utterly ruined.