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

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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

Westminster MPs call for action on same-sex marriage

The rally outside Queen's University

The rally outside Queen’s University

MPs table cross-party motion calling for action on same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland

MPs from a number of parties in Westminster have signed an early-day motion calling on the government to take action to support same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

Same-sex couples are allowed to marry in England, Wales and Scotland and the Republic of Ireland this week passed the measure by a landslide public vote, but it continues to be blocked in Northern Ireland by the DUP.

The Democratic Unionist Party has blocked same-sex marriage a number of times by filing a ‘petition of concern’ in the Stormont assembly.

Today, a cross-party group of MPs have filed an EDM congratulating Ireland for its move – and calling for Northern Ireland to follow suit.

The bill’s sponsors include Conservative MP Sir Peter Bottomley, Labour’s Emily Thornberry, Paul Farrelly and Conor McGinn, , and Northern Irish SDLP’s Alasdair McDonnell.

Signatories include the Scottish National Party’s Mhairi Black – who at 20 is the youngest LGB MP to ever sit in Parliament.

The motion states: “That this House congratulates the Republic of Ireland on becoming the first country in the world to endorse the call for marriage equality in a popular vote.

“[This house] believes that Ireland has fulfilled the aspirations of equality campaigners by winning majority support in virtually every parliamentary constituency and concluding the referendum process with a decisive 62 per cent result.

“[This house] notes the remarks of Taoiseach Enda Kenny that those who voted in the privacy of the ballot box made a very public statement in the spirit of generosity, compassion, inclusion, love and equal marriage; recognises the support given by LGBT Irish in Britain, many of whom got the boat or flew back to participate on the day

“[This house] further believes that the Irish vote can serve as a beacon of hope for those still facing oppression; and urges the Government to support LGBT equality around the world, most immediately in Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK and the island of Ireland where same-sex couples will still be barred from availing of their civil liberties.”

Islington South and Finsbury MP Emily Thornberry said: “I’m delighted to have tabled one of the first Early Day Motions of the new Parliament, celebrating this historic victory for equality.

“It’s a sign of remarkable progress that, just 14 years after the Netherlands became the first country in the world to legalize marriage for same sex couples in 2001, Ireland has now increased to 22 the number of countries where full marriage equality is the law of the land.

“But while we celebrate this result, it’s important also to remember that equality cannot be taken for granted across the world, or even within the UK.

“Northern Ireland is now the only part of the British Isles where LGBT couples lack the legal protections and the social recognition that marriage affords, so as advocates of LGBT equality we should all now redouble our efforts to make marriage a right, not a privilege that depends on where you live.”

Scrapping Human Rights Act 'would breach Good Friday agreement'

Republished from The Guardian –

Belfast-based human rights organisation says Conservative government’s plans to ditch HRA will also violate international treaty

Theresa Villiers

The Committee on the Administration of Justice is seeking an urgent meeting with the Northern Ireland secretary, Theresa Villiers, about the implications of scrapping the HRA. Photograph: Will Oliver/EPA

 
Scrapping the Human Rights Act would be a breach of the Good Friday agreement that sealed the peace process in Northern Ireland, a Belfast-based human rights organisation has said.

The Conservative government’s plans to ditch the HRA would also violate an international treaty as the agreement in 1998 was an accord between two sovereign states – the UK and the Irish Republic, according to the committee on the administration of justice.
The CAJ (Committee for Administration of Justice) is seeking an urgent meeting with Theresa Villiers – who was re-appointed by David Cameron as Northern Ireland secretary in his new cabinet – about the threat to the HRA.

In a letter to Villiers, the CAJ’s director in Northern Ireland, Brian Gormally, points out that European human rights law was incorporated into the 1998 agreement.

He says article 2 of an annex to the Good Friday agreement binds the UK internationally to the multi-party deal, which was endorsed in joint referenda on both sides of the Irish border in May 1998; and, after it was ratified, both governments lodged the agreement as a treaty with the United Nations.

Gormally notes that in the section of the agreement guaranteeing the rights of minorities, the British government commits to “complete incorporation into Northern Ireland law of the European convention on human rights, with direct access to the courts, and remedies for breach of the convention, including power for the courts to overrule assembly legislation on the grounds of inconsistency”.

This part of the agreement is going to be used, for example, by campaigners who are seeking to overturn the ban in Northern Ireland on gay marriage, a challenge that has been blocked by the assembly in Belfast but will now be taken to the European courts.

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The CAJ director says any move to tamper with or dump the HRA would undermine Northern Ireland’s fragile peace settlement.

“The secretary of state should urgently clarify the government’s position as to whether it intends to breach the Belfast/Good Friday agreement in this way. Such a step would make the UK an international outlaw and significantly roll back the peace settlement in Northern Ireland.”

Gormally stresses that the Human Rights Act and and the European court of human rights, and states’ compliance with them, had nothing to do with EU membership.

Founded in 1981, the CAJ monitors human rights abuses by the state and the security forces in Northern Ireland.