This Election Thing
Since the 1997 election many areas of law affecting LGBT people have changed: lifting the military ban, equalising the age of consent, abolishing section 28, improved immigration rights for partners, the introduction of civil partnerships, employment rights and protection at work for LGB people (and to a lesser degree for trans people), and an overhaul of the sex offences laws. Labour can claim credit for some of these; others should really be credited to the EU.
This is not to say everything is now fine and equal. Despite the gradual introduction of policies around homophobic bullying in schools, research shows queer pupils are still not doing as well as their straight counterparts. It is not clear that an Equality Commission, if introduced, will cover LGBT issues on an equal basis with those of racial, religious or sex discrimination. There are still exemptions from the employment rights of trans people that do not affect non-trans people. Some people will also want to see extension of civil partnerships to mixed-sex couples and / or marriage to same-sex couples, or recognition for multiple partners in poly relationships.
With the main party leaders all signed up to not playing the homophobia card in their campaigns around the country, this may be the first time many of us can vote without the impact on LGBT rights being at the forefront of our minds.
But for the record, this is what they have to say in their election manifestos…
Conservative Party Manifesto:
“I believe that to be treated equally is a birthright, and that discrimination is wrong. A Conservative Government will govern in the interests of everyone in our society- black or white, young or old, straight or gay, rural or urban, rich or poor.” (Page 1)
Green Party Manifesto:
“Everyone has the right to be treated equally and fairly, regardless of ethnicity, gender, age, religious belief or non-belief, sexual orientation, disability or other status. The Green Party will:- Implement a comprehensive strategy to increase detection rates in order to tackle racist and other hate crimes.” (Page 25)
Labour Party Manifesto:
“We have extended legislation to protect people from discrimination at work to cover not only gender, disability, race and ethnicity but also religion and sexual orientation and – from 2006 – age.” (page 27)
“A fully democratic society depends on giving everyone a voice and stake…We are committed to improving the rights and opportunities of gays and lesbians, that’s why we brought in legislation on civil partnerships, reducing the age of consent, repealed Section 28 and reformed the sexual offences legislation so that it was no longer discriminatory…
“In the next Parliament we will establish a Commission on Equality and Human Rights to promote equality for all and tackle discrimination, and introduce a Single Equality Act to modernise and simplify equality legislation.” (Page 111-112)
Liberal Democrat Party Manifesto:
“Strengthen the fight against discrimination: We will introduce a Single Equality Act to outlaw all unfair discrimination, (including on the grounds of race, gender, religion or belief, sexual orientation, disability, age or gender identity), thus giving equal protection for all. We will establish hate-crimes investigation units in each police force to co-ordinate information and action against racism, homophobia and other hate crimes. Liberal Democrats led the call for an amendment to the laws on incitement to racial hatred, to criminalise those who use religious words as a pretext for race hate. Our Equality Act will stop same-sex couples in civil partnerships being treated unfairly compared with married couples in pension arrangements.” (Page 9)
Scottish National Party Manifesto:
“The SNP is committed to the principle of equality of opportunity. That means the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, age, sexuality, faith, belief, ability, status or social background… (Page 7)
“All of Scotland’s citizens have a right to participate fully in society and to share in our nation’s prosperity. With independence, we will introduce a constitutionally enshrined guarantee of equal opportunities for all regardless of race, gender, age, sexuality, faith, belief, ability, status, or social background. We will also ensure that all legislation promotes equality of opportunity.” (Page 29)
Plaid Cymru Manifesto:
“Plaid Cymru the Party of Wales proposes a written Bill of Rights to end discrimination in all walks of life… We will work to ensure that the Government’s proposed Single Equality Body does not adversely impact on the individual issues raised by discrimination against different sectors of society.” (Page 8)