We must push for equality on LGBT rights across the whole UK
The shocking levels of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic hate crime in Britain, show that unless we keep our momentum on LGBT equality, there will be those who feel progress has already gone too far and want to push it back, says Justine Greening MP.
In the midst of Brexit, it seems that Parliament can’t agree on much, but one area that at least stands apart from that is work to extend LGBT rights and the continued progress that Parliament can make on this issue. More than in most areas, we have been able to work cross party and for long term change. As someone who is part of the LGBT community, it’s hugely important to me on a personal as well as a political level that our Parliament can continue to show a lead.
Britain’s progress over the past 50 years is something we can look on with pride. Like all countries, we are on a journey to achieving LGBT equality, but we’ve taken some important steps since homosexuality began to be decriminalised in 1968, especially in recent years with the introduction of same-sex marriage. And it’s great that we can celebrate 30 years of work by Stonewall in the UK.
It was important to me that whilst I was Secretary of State for Education that we took the opportunity to reform Relationships and Sex Education in our schools to make sure that no child goes into adulthood feeling that if they fall in love with someone of the same sex, that relationship is somehow wrong. This change really matters, because over half of LGBT young people say there isn’t an adult at school they can talk to about being LGBT – that’s a terrible situation for someone who is perhaps just working out they are LGBT to be in. Nearly half of LBGT pupils aged 11-19 say they’ve been bullied which only underlines the need for the work that goes on in our schools and for an education system that teaches inclusiveness and tolerance. In the end, changing the law is one thing - legislating for equality enshrines our rights - but changing attitudes on the ground is another.
There has undoubtedly been progress, though we’ve still got some way to go. Now two thirds of people say same sex relationships are ‘not wrong at all’, compared to two thirds of people saying they were wrong 30 years ago. The ground breaking 2017 LGBT Survey that over 100,000 people responded to has given us an unprecedented level of detail and insight into the lived experience of being LGBT in our country today. Steps to address LGBT access to healthcare and wider public services, alongside the appointment of the first national LGVT health adviser, are crucial. In particular, work to combat hate crimes against transgender people and the reform of the Gender Recognition Act can make a real difference.
Even after all the progress in the UK, it’s shocking to see the levels of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic hate crime in Britain. It underlines that unless we keep our momentum on LGBT equality, there will be those who feel progress has already gone too far and want to push it back.
That can never be allowed to happen and, in addition, we should be pushing for equality on LGBT rights across the whole UK. A poll earlier this year in Northern Ireland showed 76% of the public in favour of legalising equal marriage and I’d like to see politicians in the UK and Northern Ireland working together to help make that happen in practice. The UK itself should be a voice for progress across the world, calling out those countries that still discriminate against someone purely because of who they love.
It was three years ago on Pride weekend that I did a tweet to tell the world I was in a same sex relationship. The reaction was overwhelming, positive and hugely touching. But until we reach the day when making an announcement about your relationship isn’t necessary any more, we won’t have won the equality that Pride week is all about.
Justine Greening is Conservative MP for Putney.
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