The New Government And The Protection Of Our LGBT+ Rights

DUP and Conservative
File photo dated 25/7/2016 of Arlene Foster (left), leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, with Prime Minister Theresa May.

Unless you have been enjoying the last month of blissful ignorance in a bubble, feasting on snacks in a locked cupboard watching RuPaul’s Drag Race season nine unfold, you will certainly be aware of the uncertain and tumultuous political landscape the UK faces post-election.


After a volatile election, the protection of LGBT+ rights hangs in the balance, especially since the Conservative Party has signed a deal with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which will see the DUP’s 10 MPs support Theresa May.


The two parties have completed a £1bn deal with the Democratic Unionist party to prop up her Conservative minority government. But it is important to know exactly who May is getting into bed with, so to speak, and explore the DUP’s history in and attitudes towards LGBT+ equality.


How will the Conservative/DUP deal affect LGBT+ rights in the UK?


The DUP, which in 1977 championed a campaign charmingly entitled “Save Ulster from Sodomy,” boasts a shocking history when it comes to combating LGBT+-inclusive legislation and using anti-gay rhetoric. Ian Paisley Jr., son of the party’s founder, has been quoted as saying that homosexuality is “immoral, obnoxious and offensive.”


As Pink News explained, the DUP has previously supported the introduction of a “conscience clause” to protect religious people who want to discriminate against anyone who identifies as LGBT+. Which means those people could be refused service or turned down for jobs simply because of their sexuality or gender. 


Furthermore, the DUP has stalled all progress on equal marriage in Northern Ireland, attempted to retain a lifetime ban on gay men giving blood, and opposed same-sex couples adopting children.


It has been claimed, in fact, that DUP leader Arlene Foster wrote to former Scottish minister Marco Biagi asking to curtail same-sex marriage access for Northern Ireland couples in 2015.


In short, this party has a troubling attitude towards sexual minorities, and it is not unfair to question the stability of LGBT+ equality when they have reached an agreement with the Conservative party. 


What is also concerning is the party’s joint approaches to Brexit, more specifically the possibility of a “hard Brexit” in which major formal ties are severed between the UK and the European Union. This would undoubtedly have a detrimental impact on the state of LGBT+ equality.


In the past 20 years, LGBT+ citizens have seen a tremendous increase in their legal protection, but this is largely thanks to various EU initiatives.


The 2010 Equality Act, for example, protects people in the workplace and wider society from discrimination, including on the basis of a person’s sexual or gender identity. It actually implements four previous EU Equal Treatment Directives.


And the European Court of Justice ruled that this extends to discrimination against transgender people, applied in a ground-breaking case in which a trans woman was fired ahead of her transition.


In short, the EU has spear-headed so many laws that are invaluable in protecting LGBT+ people that may not have been introduced otherwise.


Will such initiative continue in a post-Brexit UK, especially if a “hard Brexit” is achieved?


UK legislation protecting the safety and treatment of trans people, hate crime and employment rights would undeniably have been much slower without EU directives.


Complacency is our biggest enemy: as always, our community and its allies should remain vigilant and ensure the rights we often take for granted remain intact, which can be done, for example, by placing pressure on local representatives and ensuring your voice is heard.


We must work to ensure politicians from all parties are held accountable for their actions and continue to guarantee inequalities against LGBT+ people are addressed.

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