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LGBT Rights in the Commonwealth

Kaleidoscope-Trust

LGBT Rights in the Commonwealth

40 of the 53 states still have laws which criminalise same-sex relationships in some way

 

The Kaleidoscope Trust has published its biennial report on the state of LGBTI people’s rights across the Commonwealth. Speaking Out 2015 documents theCommonwealth’s poor record in protecting the rights of its LGBTI citizens and  has been released in advance of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

 

There are hopeful signs that the Commonwealth is willing to reflect on how to improve this record. As a result of the Trust’s ongoing work with Commonwealth institutions for the first time in its history The Commonwealth People’s Forum, the official gathering of Commonwealth civil society, is hosting two session examining the challenges facing LGBTI people. Activists and policy makers will be looking at ways in which Commonwealth institutions and member states can do more to protect the rights of LGBTI people. The People’s Forum convenes in Malta 23-25 November in advance of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 27-29 November.

 

DOWNLOAD A COPY OF THE REPORT HERE 

 

Speaking Out 2015 is a compilation of contributions from activists, human rights organisations and researchers which intends to deepen understanding of LGBTI rights of key Commonwealth policy makers and offer them a range of well-researched, practical policy recommendations to support change at all levels of the Commonwealth.

 

Speaking Out 2015 calls on the Commonwealth take action to overcome the discrimination and violence faced by LGBTI people through:

 

  • Following the example of other multilateral forums including: the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights; the Organisation of American States and the UN Human Rights Council the Commonwealth must condemn violence on any grounds and make concrete efforts to prevent acts of violence and harassment committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

 

  • Commit to open and free debate across the Commonwealth on how best to safeguard the rights of LGBTI people.

 

  • Commit to include a discussion on equal rights for LGBTI citizens as a substantive agenda item at the next CHOGM.

 

  • Engage in meaningful dialogue with their own LGBTI communities to facilitate an informed debate about the means to remove all legal and other impediments to the enjoyment of their human rights.

 

Dr Felicity Daly, Executive Director, Kaleidoscope Trust said:  “While we welcome the positive changes for LGBTI people living in Commonwealth member states since the last CHOGM in 2013 – our report shows there is serious cause for concern remaining in every Commonwealth country. Speaking Out 2015 details LGBTI people are still criminalized in the majority of member states, and face violence, discrimination and significant barriers in accessing their rights to health, employment and education. The Commonwealth, as a network of states, institutions and civil society actors, must play a vital role in ensuring equality for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

 

We hope the report will increase public understanding and highlight the challenges facing LGBTI communities in the Commonwealth in the lead up to CHOGM and support the advocacy efforts of the Trust, The Commonwealth Equality Network and other human rights advocates engaging in the 2015 CHOGM

LGBT+World Congress of Families

Editorial:  Previously I have written about the World Congress of Families, and about their ability to use vast funding to covertly influence the governments of many western governments, and also on a further field in Africa.

I am continuing our watching brief to bring you this article on Dr. Everett Piper, who has been selected by U.S. Sen. James Lankford to join him at President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in Washington on Jan. 12th.

Now you may well ask why is this important to LGBT people in the UK?  The reason is that in the US it is estimated that 3.8% of the population (9,083,558 m) are LGBT, whilst HM Treasury and the Department of Trade and Industry in 2005 concluded that there were 3.6 m gay people in the UK – approximately 6% of the total population.

Obviously these numbers are voters, yet, Sen Lankford (and his running mate now Dr Piper) seem to want to ostracize them – indeed to end up treating them as third class citizens.

The Congress of Families, and indeed similar bodies with the same aims, have tried repeatedly to organise both in the UK and in Ireland, and we need to be on our guard that they don’t try to suborn our politicians to repeal the rights that we have fought long and hard to obtain.

 

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(Left) Oklahoma Wesleyan University President Dr. Everett Piper and U.S. Sen. James Lankford.

 

OKLAHOMA CITY – Outspoken Oklahoma Wesleyan University president, Dr. Everett Piper, in Bartlesville, was selected by U.S. Sen. James Lankford to join him at President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address in Washington on Jan. 12th.

According to an Associated Press story, published Wednesday, Piper has made news in recent months by criticizing college students as “narcissistic” and is now wanting his college to get a religious exemption from Title IX requirements because transgender people are a “human fabrication” who can be “discriminated” against because they are somehow scientific aberrations.

Piper’s views have been embraced by Lankford, who has made numerous anti-gay statements in recent years, saying sexual orientation is a “choice.”

And with hard-right fundamentalist Christians bristling at the mere thought of gay marriage or LGBT rights of any kind, they have twisted the notion of “religious freedom,” claiming, somehow, that their religious beliefs are being threatened.

Notes the AP article about Lankford’s love of Piper: “A first-term Republican from Edmond, Lankford praised Piper’s “stand for religious freedom.”

That’s code for “I am a fundamentalist Christian and should be able to discriminate against the gays and their ‘agendas.'”

Piper, a regular columnist for the conservative Oklahoma news website Forty Six News, arrogantly boasted in his latest column – “Title XI Exemption and I’m Proud of It” – that “the transgender agenda” is out to “insult” men and women.

America’s leading lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy organization, the Human Rights Campaign, released a statement Wednesday in a piece by Liz Halloran headlined “Oklahoma Wesleyan University president says he is ‘proud’ to discriminate against transgender people,” saying that “(Piper defended) the university’s decision to request an exemption to existing civil rights law in order to discriminate against LGBT students on religious grounds, Piper used the same bigoted and hateful language that is his stock-in-trade: referring to transgender people as a “human fabrication,” and non-discrimination efforts as “misogyny.”

Halloran also quotes HRC President Chad Griffin, who said: “Mr. Piper’s assertions are despicable, but, sadly, not surprising, given his track record of working with anti-LGBT organizations like the World Congress of Families. Piper, meanwhile, sarcastically responded to this criticism by writing a response titled “I spoke to a hate group last week.” Piper actually embraces his role as hate leader for the Christofascist right.

HRC’s Griffin continued, adding: “Piper should be ashamed. Imagine what it feels like to be a young LGBT student at Oklahoma Wesleyan University and hearing the president of your school publicly disparage you in this way. His astonishingly callous response to revelations that he sought the right to discriminate against his own students is not only stomach-turning, but anathema to the role of an educational leader.”

We agree. And we are also disappointed that Sen. Lankford, who is elected to represent all Oklahomans, is comfortable palling around with the likes of loud-mouthed, reactionary bigots like Everett Piper. However, given Lankford’s record, we’re not all that surprised.

This is an opinion piece from Red Dirt Report editor Andrew W. Griffin

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Commonwealth is working on LGBT issues

ldv-logoBy | Fri 4th December 2015 – 2:55 pm

Most people wouldn’t know that the large biennial Commonwealth Heads of CommonwealthGovernment Meeting (CHOGM) just took place in Malta. The Telegraph made a quip about the ‘Dictators Club’, the Daily Mail twisted some policy announcements. The Independent had bits of coverage. The Guardian, surprisingly, stuck to rewording Government press releases.

Tim Farron also intervened on the subject of LGBT rights. Paraphrasing: he said that the Government should be raising LGBT rights as an issue using its position of strength in the Commonwealth. This statement got coverage – the point was well landed! But when you think for a moment, you realise the intervention was wrong.

LGBT rights were actually a major topic. The Commonwealth People’s Forum, the Civil Society part of CHOGM, made part of its post-Forum Declaration on LGBT rights. The Commonwealth Secretary General reprimand to leaders in his pre-CHOGM speech, and a quick check of Hansard, shows that Baroness Verma announced weeks ago she would chair a CHOGM discussion on LGBT rights.

Admittedly LGBT rights aren’t mentioned in the CHOGM communique or Leaders Statement, but that’s not surprising. The Commonwealth uses a strict consensus mechanism. Instead of occupying a position of strength, as Tim Farron suggests, Britain is just one of 53 members. Our entire policy platform can be vetoed by Tuvalu if that government wishes. There’s no qualified voting based on size and no Security Council permanent seat. The Commonwealth is what many Liberal Democrats campaign for elsewhere: a respectful, rules-based international institution where vulnerable states leverage the same influence as ‘big’ powers. In that situation, does anyone expect the states that persecute LGBT people not to veto condemnation of their behaviour?

That doesn’t mean LGBT rights weren’t raised. According to EU reviews, the UK is the most progressive European state on the subject of LGBT rights, and Cameron has used LGBT rights as part of his drive to detoxify the Toryies. In addition, the CHOGM was hosted by another state and leader with a strong LGBT record. And even if one thinks Prime Ministers Cameron and Muscat wouldn’t raise LGBT rights: it’s hard to imagine Canadian PM Justin Trudeau not fighting that fight.

The reality is that the CHOGM takes place without the media present. The CHOGM Retreat is also totally off the record; so there’s never a record of discussions. Yet you can still piece together what happened.

First, as pointed out, LGBT rights were deliberately raised in the CHOGM margins and clearly in the foundations of some kind of Maltese strategy. Secondly, despite the consensus mechanism and de-facto vetoes, the Commonwealth appointed a new Secretary-General on a LGBT rights’ platform, so clearly the British, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and Maltese diplomatic services have been busy. Thirdly; the UK will host the next CHOGM in 2018. It’s inconceivable, given the British debate, that the Government would host in 2018 if its policy wasn’t to raise LGBT rights at CHOGMs.

This is not to say the Commonwealth is strong on LGBT right. Peter Tatchell is right in calling the Commonwealth a bastion of homophobia, and our Governments efforts are small steps to changing that. But our party resorted to an inaccurate sound bite and missed an opportunity to wield influence. We mistook lack of media interest for lack of progress.

We could turn that around and yet add to the debate about using the Commonwealth not just to advance LGBT rights, but also to further our wider international goals. After all, if the Toryies can provide the Commonwealth with £15 million to capitalise a disaster insurance programme that helps poor countries respond to crises more quickly, deliver a £5.6 million new development programme for the world’s smallest countries, establish a £5 million counter-extremism programme, and a youth network to prevent radicalisation; imagine what a Liberal Democrat Government could achieve.

* Dan Smith is a psuedonym. The author is known to the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He has a professional background in foreign and commonwealth affairs.

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Saudi Arabia Rules?

Adel-Al-Jubeir-with-Ban-Ki-moon

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon greets Saudi Arabian Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir. Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

 

Editorial:  Is there a conflict  within the United Nations regarding the appointment of Mr Faisal Bin Hassan Trad, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador at the UN in Geneva, as he has been elected as Chair of a panel of independent experts on the UN Human Rights Council. (LINK)

To any reasonable minded person you would definetly think so, especially as Saudi Arabia has insisted that the  UN keeps LGBT rights out of its development goals (LINK)

We ask you the readers what do you think of this situation?

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Campaign launched highlighting economic case for pro-LGBT rights

 

The Guardian Logo

 

Open for Business ‘pulls together data that makes the case for the LGBT community in the workplace’

 

Rainbow flag with couple

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fourteen global businesses, including Google and Royal Bank of Scotland, have launched a campaign to put forward the economic case for ending discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender individuals.

Launched at the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting in New York, the Open for Business campaign published research showing economies, companies and individuals perform better in societies that support LGBT employees.

The report by Open for Business spells out that nearly 80 countries criminalise consensual, adult same-sex activity, or use other laws to marginalise and persecute LGBT individuals.

The initiative, which also includes technology group IBM, consultancy EY and law firm Linklaters and backed by businesses that employ 1.3 million people globally, comes after the controversy sparked by the US state of Indiana in March, when it backed legislation that appeared to allow discrimination against the LBGT community. The row prompted Apple’s boss Tim Cook, who spoke out last year about being gay, to call for a rethink of such laws that have been passed in 20 US states.

In an editorial in the Washington Post at the time, Cook said: “Apple is open. Open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. Regardless of what the law might allow in Indiana or Arkansas [which also accepted the legislation], we will never tolerate discrimination.”

Deborah Sherry, UK and Ireland partnership director at Google, said she expected more businesses sign up to Open For Business. The group also includes PR company Brunswick, Standard Chartered bank, financial companies American Express and Mastercard, the McKinsey consultancy, news service Thomson Reuters and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin group.

It is not advocating specific actions against counties or companies which discriminate against LGBT individuals. Sherry said: “It’s specifically to bring together data and make the business case that if you include the the LGBT community in society, if people can bring their whole selves to work, you attract better people, it lowers [business] costs…its makes them more productive and more entrepreneural and so the company has better output.

“Clearly the LBGT community has got various states of rights and inclusion in society, but there is still much to be done. And change often happens from the ground up so Open for Business is an initiative to pull together the data that makes the case for the LBGT community in the workplace in the same way that has been made for gender and minorities.”

The report includes analysis by the Harvard Business Review, which shows that companies with greater diversity perform better than those which do not. The research found that employees at more diverse companies are 45% more likely to report that their firm’s market share grew over the previous year and 70% more likely to report that the firm had entered a new market.

The report cites reactions to companies in countries where there are laws discriminating against LBGT workers. It raises India, where in 2013 a law decriminalising gay sex was rescinded. Business such as IBM, Royal Bank of Scotland, Cisco, Citigroup, Google, Dell, Novell, General Electric and Microsoft met at the Bangalore campus of Goldman Sachs to discuss strategies to protect their LGBT employees.

It also cited research by MV Lee Badgett, a professor of economics and director of the Center for Public Policy & Administration at the University of Massachusetts, estimating the impact of discrimination on India’s GDP as up to 1.4% of economic output.

 

Major companies form group to push for LGBT rights globally

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NEW YORK (AP) — A dozen corporations, including Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., and Coca-Cola Co., are joining a new coalition to push for LGBT rights in the workplace in places beyond the U.S. and Western Europe.

The organization is partly a response to the recent setbacks for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights in countries like Russia, Uganda and the Middle East. The Human Rights Campaign-led group will push for protections in the workplace globally, including in countries where LGBT individuals face legal discrimination or harassment.

“They deserve a fair chance to earn a living and provide for their families no matter where they live,” said HRC President Chad Griffin.

Corporate America has been cited as a force in the push for gay rights in the U.S., with some companies offering LGBT protections and same-sex partner benefits going back decades. Hundreds of companies signed statements advocating for same-sex marriage when the issue to the Supreme Court earlier this year.

The coalition members are: the consulting firm Accenture, AT&T Inc., software company CA Technologies, Coca-Cola, Destination Weddings Travel Group, Google, IBM, Microsoft, home furnishings maker Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, consumer products giant Procter & Gamble Co., china and glassware company Replacements Ltd., and Symantec Corp. HRC officials expect the group’s members to grow.

“We have long supported LGBT rights, but it is very difficult to implement protections for our employees and for their families when laws do not exist or it’s a hostile environment,” said Mary Snapp, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel at Microsoft.

The group collectively employs nearly 1.4 million people in 190 countries and has combined annual revenue of nearly $550 billion.

The coalition will provide the members a common platform to talk about LGBT workplace protections globally. It also will be a platform for companies to get advice on how to implement LGBT friendly policies in places where legal protections may not be there, said Deena Fidas, director of HRC’s Workplace Equality Program.

HRC since 2002 has issued a report yearly that scored how well large companies dealt with LGBT-specific issues. However the report, known as the Corporate Equality Index, focused mostly on the U.S., not elsewhere.

The new coalition will join an already existing group of advocacy organizations and companies that have been pushing more workplace protections for individuals beyond the U.S. For example, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase, two companies who are not in HRC’s inaugural group, have been individually vocal about workplace protections in the countries they do business.

“The conversation around the positive business impacts of LGBT equality is increasingly a global one,” said Todd Sears with Out Leadership, a business focused LGBT rights organization, which has held global business focused summits on LGBT workplace issues since 2011.

 

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-3253714/Major-companies-form-group-push-LGBT-rights-globally.html#ixzz3nCyiwb1b

 

Robbie Rogers Wants To Be 'Extremely Flamboyant'

…At Anti-LGBT Russia, Qatar World Cups

“By being there, it is more of a statement than boycotting.”

 

CARSON, CA - MAY 26:  Robbie Rogers #14 of Los Angeles Galaxy looks on prior to the start of the game against the Seattle Sounders FC at The Home Depot Center on May 26, 2013 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The world’s only gay professional footballer doesn’t plan on hiding who he is at the next two World Cups.

LA Galaxy fullback Robbie Rogers told The Mirror in an interview published on Thursday that should he be called up to the U.S. men’s national team for the 2018 World Cup in Russia or the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, he wouldn’t boycott either tournament in protest of the host nation’s homophobia.

If I were to go to Russia or Qatar then I would do it and I would be extremely flamboyant about it,” said Rogers.

He continued, “I think what I’ve learned from my experience of coming out and being present in the locker room is that by being there, it is more of a statement than boycotting or something like that.”

Rogers, who became the world’s first openly gay pro soccer player in 2013 when he came out in a surprise open letter posted on his blog, has witnessed first-hand how simply being himself has shifted the reception toward homosexuality around the league.

“It’s very much changing in the MLS — I have friends in every team and they tell me how things have changed, the sensitivity to using certain words and stuff like that,” Rogers told The Mirror.

However, Rogers said there still is room for progress abroad, noting that there aren’t “really any out footballers around Europe or South America.”

He said Russia and Qatar “are extremely homophobic.” Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, while Russia has also outlawed “homosexual propaganda.”

The lack of openly gay additional male soccer players around the world has caused theoppressive anti-LGBT political and cultural stances of Russia and Qatar to become tertiary issues to FIFA, which is already accused of corruption surrounding Russia and Qatar’s World Cup bids.

For Qatar’s part, the country has promised to find a “creative” solution to accommodating LGBT fans and players, but has preposterously lumped the problem into their additional question of how to serve alcohol, which is also illegal in Qatar, at the games.

Rogers has been critical of each country before. In January, he told Sky Sports that both World Cups were “insane,” saying, “If you look at the next few World Cups, they are in places where, if I were to go, I would possibly be imprisoned or beat up.”

It’s a threat that outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter has completely failed to address, other than joking in 2010 that gay players and fans should “refrain from any sexual activities” during 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Rogers’ World Cup hypothetical could be more than just that. Although he last capped for the USMNT in 2011, recent conversations suggest Rogers, who has since switched from forward to fullback, may have another shot for a call-up following success in the MLS.

At the Galaxy’s first-ever Pride Night last month, in a powerful moment, Rogers scored his first goal since coming out and joining the team in 2013.

Hopefully for Rogers, it’ll be the first goal of many more in LA, and perhaps one day, in Russia or Qatar as a member of the U.S. men’s national team.

Coming out in Newcastle: Pride Radio creator says being gay cost him jobs

 

 

Former North East radio and TV presenter Jonathan Morrell

Former North East radio and TV presenter Jonathan MorrellFormer North East radio and TV presenter Jonathan Morrell

Former Sunday Sun columnist Jonathan Morrell, who now lives in Australia with his husband, is urging people to turn out for Northern Pride

Former North radio and TV presenter Jonathan Morrell has revealed for the first time that being gay cost him jobs in the region.

Speaking in support of Newcastle’s upcoming Northern Pride festival, the former Sunday Sun columnist said he was restricted in how open and honest he could be about his sexuality while working in the North East media for more than 20 years.

But the 45-year-old, who emigrated to Australia four years ago with partner Andrew, has called on people of all sexual orientations, ages and backgrounds to join in the celebration later this month to ensure prejudice continues to fade away.

Jonathan, who now works as a producer and reporter for Perth’s Channel 7 News channel after stints with BBC Radio Newcastle and Cleveland, ITV Tyne Tees, Sky News and Real Radio, said: “The North East is no better or worse that anywhere else. There are people who have issues with homosexuality and those without.

“When you live in a democracy like the UK or Australia you are entitled to your opinion but you are not entitled to it if it is intended to make people’s lives unhappy.

“In my lifetime, things have come a long way – from the age of consent being 21 and schools being banned from talking about homosexuality in the 1980s, to protection in the workplace from discrimination and equality in marriage. I never imagined that would happen.”Jonathan grew up in rural Cornwall and he found moving to the diverse city of Newcastle as a student made life easier being gay, but he soon found work tricky.

He said: “I had come out when I was about 16 at college. I had a girlfriend but it didn’t work out. My friend Darren was the first openly gay person I had known and at first that scared me. With time, I told him that I might be gay. He said he wasn’t surprised and that was it.

“I cannot explain how huge it is to say that to someone for the first time. You are challenging all of the assumptions about you from being a child. My friends made it clear it didn’t make a difference and I should just be myself.

“There were people who didn’t speak to me again, but it was there loss and I don’t want those sorts of people in my life.

“Since then I have never flaunted it, but have always been open and honest because I think, ‘why wouldn’t I be’? Prejudice is drawn out of ignorance and the more people know about minority groups like LGBT the more accepting they will be as they know people who fit into these groups and are nice people.

“However, it was hard to do that when you are working on TV and radio because a lot of time the company was not happy with me being as open.”

He explained: “There have been instances of people saying unpleasant things to me. When I was at the BBC an older colleague said he knew why I was gay. When I asked how, he said I must have been abused as a child. I was gobsmacked.

“Another colleague, who was Christian, gave me a book and asked me to read it. It was about a bloke who got AIDS and died.

“Occasionally in pubs I hear abuse, but I don’t tend to say anything as that only sees things escalate out of control. These people tend to run out of things to say in the end. But I have also met some amazing supportive people and they fair outnumber the nasty ones.

“It has cost me jobs in the past because there is still a culture, although it is against the law, in which homophobic opinions remain but have been pushed underground because it is not PC to say anymore.

“Thankfully, fewer and fewer of those people are around. At the end of the day what two people do in their relationship is nobody else’s business.”

Jonathan and Andrew have been together for 26 years, having met at work at the BBC, and in March the civil partners got married.

Jonathan was a leading figure in the creation of Pride Radio North East, which broadcasts online all year round and on FM for four weeks each, and while living in the North East was also a keen supporter of LGBT rugby club Newcastle Ravens and support service MESMAC North East.

Pride Parade Newcastle

Pride Parade Newcastle

Meanwhile, the journalist has given his backing to the Northern Pride arts and entertainment festival will take place across the region from July 17 to 19, centring on the Town Moor’s weekend showpiece event.

He said: “Pride has gone from being a small gathering to a great big party which attracts big artists and thousands of people.

“When I was on TV I was quite careful where I went and what I did, but once that stopped I no longer felt under pressure and loved going to the Pride festival.

“People ask why we need Pride. Look at Russia where homosexuals are being persecuted. You can see that very quickly things can change from a tolerant climate to open hostility.

“Before 1967, tens of thousands of people in the UK were prosecuted for being gay – not long ago. People were locked up, had lobotomies and were chemically castrated.

“Governments change and society changes but we cannot ever go back to those days. We must always be vigilant and make sure we continues to speak up and remember how far LGBT people have come and how far they still need to go.”He added: “Pride is also great fun – a day of celebration to be thankful about rights hard won by a generation who went through really tough times.

“It is a time to say ‘this is me, this is our community and we are here’. We might not think there a lot of gay people in Newcastle but there are thousands. It is important that they get out there.”

And the worst thing Jonathan hears said about his sexuality?

“People say it is a choice and I made it. My response is, ‘you should try walking a thousand miles in my shoes’.

“I believe me being gay is a product of birth and in time I’m confident that will be proven. Just as people have brown hair, I was born that way.”

Nick Herbert: Parliamentary group on global LGBT rights will help tackle ‘discrimination and abuses’

PinkNews

 

Tory MP Nick Herbert has said that a new cross-party Parliamentary group on LGBT rights will work with NGOs to help tackle “breaches of LGBT rights” around the world.

Members of Parliament and peers for the first time this month formed a new All-Party Parliamentary Group on global LGBT rights – to tackle rights issues around the world.

APPGs are informal cross-party groups, which have no official status within Parliament – but dedicate their time to working on specific issues across party lines.

The new APPG, which includes politicians from the Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, Scottish National and Green parties from across the Commons and the Lords – will work to push issues in Parliament relating to LGBT people around the world.

Tory MP Nick Herbert said: “I am delighted to have been elected Chair of the APPG on Global LGBT Rights and I look forward to working closely with my fellow parliamentarians on these issues.

“While the advance of LGBT rights in many countries has been remarkable, as the decision of the Supreme Court in the US testifies, elsewhere in the world we are seeing discrimination and abuses which are of real concern.

“The power of this group is that is cross-party and will work closely with interested NGOs. I hope that it will help to ensure that, when breaches of LGBT rights occur around the world, UK parliamentarians respond in the most coordinated and effective manner possible.

“I would also like to put on record my gratitude to Crispin Blunt and the Kaleidoscope Trust for providing the foundations for this group, and I look forward to continuing their good work.”

The group’s vice chairs include Lord Cashman, Labour’s Envoy on LGBT Rights, SNP MP Stewart McDonald, Lib Dem peer Baroness Barker, and Green MP Caroline Lucas. Labour’s Lord Collins of Highbury was elected Treasurer, and Tory MP Ben Howlett MP as Secretary.

Caroline Lucas MP said: “There is a tremendous amount of work to be done in advancing LGBT rights across the world, and it’s good to see parliamentarians coming together on such a crucial issue.

“I hope that this all party group can hold the Government to account where necessary to ensure that British foreign policy, and our rules on immigration, promote the wellbeing of LGBT people across the world.”

Lord Cashman, who was one of the co-founders of Stonewall, said: “The APPG will give us a unique opportunity to share our skills to ensure that LGBT people both in the United Kingdom and internationally enjoy the same rights wherever they are born and wherever they live.

“Working with local activists in other countries and in the UK we can ensure that the universality of human rights becomes a reality.”

Baroness Barker said: “The APPG is uniquely placed to bring together governments, civil society and businesses to build strong, safe communities in which all citizens, including those who are LGBTI, prosper. Let’s get started.”

Stewart McDonald added: “I am very pleased to have been elected as vice chair of the APPG on Global LGBT Rights. This group has been founded at a crucial time.

“Although in the UK LGBT rights have advanced rapidly in recent years, the opposite is true in many other countries around the world.

“I look forward to working with colleagues across the House to put our commitment to promote LGBT rights internationally into practice.”

There is already a long-standing APPG on HIV and AIDS – which Tory MP Mike Freer was recently elected to chair.

Parliament introduced a Women and Equalities Select Committee for the first time last month, and former equalities minister Maria Millerwas elected as chair. Select Committees provide scrutiny of the government’s equality work, and are distinct from APPGs

Humanists have always been champions of LGBT rights

Andrew Copson says Humanists and LGBT people are natural allies.

Andrew Copson says Humanists and LGBT people are natural allies.

PinkNews

 

Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association Andrew Copson writes for PinkNews on World Humanist Day.

Humanists are simply people who see the world as a natural place, best understood by science and reason, and who seek to live an ethical life on the basis of reason and humanity. It’s a valuable way of seeing the world – and one which has inspired great commitment to equality. In recent years, society has come a long way, and the UK in particular has become a more diverse, more tolerant, and more accepting place.

But as far back as you can look, you can see that humanists have not just been LGBT-friendly, but champions of LGBT people and their rights.

World Humanist Day, which falls on 21 June each year, provides us with an excellent opportunity to reflect not just on how much humanists have contributed to our society – but also to the struggle for LGBT equality.

Today the British Humanist Association (BHA), which represents humanists across the UK and campaigns on equalities issues, can count prominent LGBT figures such as Stephen Fry, Dr Christian Jessen, Peter Tatchell, and Angela Eagle MP among its Patrons. Other prominent humanists have included queer writers Virginia Woolf and E M Forster, the mathematician Alan Turing, and the economist John Maynard Keynes.

I’m proud of the fact that BHA celebrants were conducting same-sex humanist weddings decades before the legalisation of same-sex marriage. The BHA was later a prominent campaigner for legal same-sex marriages in Britain, working closely with the All Party Parliamentary Humanist Group on the passage of the Same Sex Marriage Act.

The Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association, now part of the BHA, also campaigned for legal same-sex marriages since its inception in the late 1970s. In 2001, the group campaigned heavily for gay couples to take part in the London Partnership Register – the policy which later inspired the Civil Partnerships Act and eventually the Same Sex Marriage Act.

When same-sex marriage was legalised in Scotland, the first weddings were humanist ones – as Scotland has the benefit of legal humanist marriages and legal same-sex marriages. England and Wales is still lagging behind in that department, but there is pressure now on Michael Gove to legalise humanist marriages south of the border as well. There’s still work to be done.

Like Humanism itself, the enthusiastic support humanists have shown for LGBT issues cuts across all divides – sexuality, race, and social background.

As Stephen Fry put it in a video he recorded for the BHA last year, ‘Ultimately, morality comes from us.’ We don’t look to religious texts to tell us what’s right or wrong. We consider a particular situation; we look to what the evidence says about it; and we try to think and feel as others might about a situation.

This approach has made natural allies of humanists and LGBT causes. But it’s also led to humanists taking an active role in a wide range of issues – from the anti-apartheid movement to anti-colonialism, animal rights issues, and the campaign to legalise assisted dying.

LGBT people have often adopted a similar approach – which is why the LGBT movement have been such enthusiastic advocates for others human rights causes as well. There’s something about being denied one’s rights, or one’s place in society, or being discriminated against, which teaches us to be aware of other’s feelings; to be conscientious; to try to see things fairly.

It’s an approach which is uniquely prepared to meet novel ethical challenges as time goes forward, but also one which is deeply embedded in our culture and in the way we see the world. Perhaps moreso than any religion. This World Humanist Day I will be reflecting on that long hard road, and the people who have walked it.

Andrew Copson is the Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association.