Ed’s answers to LGBT Labour’s Q&A

1. Labour had a strong record in government on LGBT equality, but is there any area of policy or approach in which you think Labour should have done more, and if so what will you do about it?

We can all be proud of the great steps forward that were made by the last Labour Government but I was disappointed that we were unable to secure Incitement to Homophobic Hatred onto the same legal footing as Incitement to Racial Hatred due to the so-called ‘Waddington Amendment’ forced through by Tory peers. I am clear that a commitment to repeal this amendment should be in our next manifesto, so we can ensure its removal regardless of the behaviour of Conservative peers. I also think we should have done more to move things forwards on the ban on blood donation and on asylum issues.

2. How will you tackle the issue of the blood ban for gay and bisexual men, as it is still one of the discriminatory measures that affecting the LGBT community, and do you support ending the ban?

Whilst we led the Parliamentary agenda on many reforms for LGBT equality, often long overdue after 18 years of Tory inertia, we should have moved quicker to remove the outdated ban on donating blood by gay men who are low risk donors. Of course we’re talking about genuinely low risk blood donors who should be able to donate in a safe way. A lot of this is led by the National Blood Service and the independent advisory group of scientists, but it’s important to look at international examples where there’s been progress on this issue for countries with similar demographic risk profiles to ours. I am glad this is currently being reviewed at the moment but I think the blanket life time ban was a knee jerk action in the panic of the 1980s and it is time to move away from that.

3. What actions do they advocate to combat homophobic bullying in schools?

Bullying is wrong and sadly too often prejudice and hate are seen in schools where every child should have a right to learn in a secure environment. As Schools Secretary I took the initiative in this area, working in partnership with Stonewall and Educational Action Challenging Homophobia (EACH), we produced the first-ever guidance on tackling homophobic bullying as well as guidance on sexist, sexual and transphobic bullying too. In opposition we must make sure that the Conservative-led Education department keeps up the support and pressure to tackle homophobic bullying. Whilst in government we had a programme of training for teaching assistants which we were working on to include action on homophobic bullying but the entire programme was one of the early Coalition cuts.

4. The LGBT community is rarely reflected in secondary education. Where do you stand on school’s responsibilities to ensure students realise and accept that homosexual relationships are as valid as heterosexual. Would you support integrating LGBT lives and issues into the curriculum, for instance in subjects such as History, English Literature and sex education (including in faith schools)?

I agree that children from all backgrounds should find their community reflected in their education so they can grow up with self confidence. It’s important that ’sex education’ or Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) isn’t the only place where LGBT issues arise but it is an important place to start. English, History and Modern Languages are areas where we need to support teachers in ensuring their teaching and their curriculum is reflective of the diversity of our communities including LGBT lives and issues.

5. Increasingly countries are legislating for full marriage equality for same-sex couples. Nick Clegg supported this before the election ad David Cameron has said he would ‘look into it’. Do you support marriage equality and would you try and implement it as soon as possible should Labour win the next election?

Yes I unequivocally support full marriage equality, and its implementation by the next Labour Government. Civil Partnerships were the right thing to do at the time where we were able to get the legislation through with a lot of support in order to give same sex couples full equality in rights to married couples but now it’s time to allow full equality for all couples by allowing for same sex couples to marry where they wish to. My uncle came out in his 50s and I only wish he had lived long enough to have a civil partnership ceremony with his partner Glenn – it would have been a hell of a ‘do’…

6. Do you support fertility treatment for lesbian and bisexual women and what are your views on the rights for LGBT people to have families?

I support the statutory right for lesbian and bisexual women to receive fertility treatment by the NHS, rather than facing discrimination and sometimes making risky arrangements outside the healthcare service, was a significant step forward and sent a clear message on the rights of same sex couples to have families. I also fully support the equal parenting arrangements we brought in along with Civil Partnerships and the action we took on equality in adoption laws, where the UK is in advance of many countries (including some who have marriage equality)

7. How can we ensure a fair asylum system to help LGBT people who face persecution in their countries of origin?

I’m sure no-one thinks the current system works fairly even though some people are accepted as refugees because of their sexuality, and recent court cases have highlighted the flaws. The solution must lie in fundamentally addressing the policies and assumptions adopted by the Home Office and Immigration Courts when processing applications.

This is something we did take action on during government but we didn’t act quickly enough or go far enough. The UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group did a lot of work in this area but many thought there continued to be a systemic bias against LGBT asylum seekers. I welcome the recent Supreme Court ruling which will send a strong message to the asylum system but there are still dangers – for example the difficulty in establishing you are LGBT in claiming asylum and the limitation of asylum to state persecution. So the Supreme Court ruling is a start but it is still an area we’ll need to work on. We also need to do more to establish LGBT equality as a fundamental human rights issue for all states to respect.

8. LGBT Labour ran Dorothy’s List in the run up to the General election to support and encourage LGBT candidates to stand for Parliament. Do you support campaigns like that and as leader what would you do to increase the number of out LGBT candidates and MPs?

We have to challenge ourselves as a Party to ask why there have been so few newly elected LGBT MPs in recent General Elections. During the last election I was proud to campaign alongside Dorothy’s list candidates like Ben Bradshaw in Exeter, James Lewis in Elmet and Rothwell and Chris Oxlade in Crawley. Dorothy’s list was one of the inspirations behind my plans for the Party’s first ever ‘Diversity Fund’ to help people from under-represented groups, like the LGBT community, get selected.

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Posted September 8th, 2010 by Ed's team

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One Response to “Ed’s answers to LGBT Labour’s Q&A”

  1. paul canning says:

    LGBT Asylum News has made due note here > Analysis: Labour’s leadership candidates on LGBT asylum, Balls the winner http://madikazemi.blogspot.com/2010/09/analysis-labours-leadership-candidates.html

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