The title is strong, but is no exaggeration. Whether it’s a matter of intentional homophobia on the part of specific persons, or institutionalized homophobia on the part of government structures and organizations, the UK Government is indeed homophobic. If you’ve read my previous article for No More Lost, you’ll note that I don’t use the term lightly: People are dying as a result of this Governments culpable failure to keep its word. This Lib Dem/Conservative coalition government promised so much, but has entirely failed to deliver. We had hoped that the conservatives had changed – they have not. We had hoped that the Liberal Democrats would bring progress and enthusiasm for change – they have not. They brought us promises, and then failed to even as much as seriously attempt to realize them.
With that said, it is clearly not a lack of action that makes a government homophobic, and nor is it the lack of material results from its promises. The mark of a homophobic government is that it threatens the rights and lives of LGB people, is complicit through inaction when it’s legislation is clearly and obviously bent in such a way as to hurt LGB people, or when it actually acts to that effect complicitly. This is the test of a homophobic government, and this is the evidence:
Promise 1: We will look at the possibility of enacting marriage equality.
Well, frankly, as promises go this one is all a bit empty really. It’s not a promise of action, and it’s not a promise of any kind of solid view. It says “We’ll think about it”… so where’s the thought? Where’s the indication of progress being made on this issue by the Government. The Government has done nothing of note on this issue. That, of course, is not the mark of homophobia. The mark of homophobia comes in that the Government is in the mean time trying to promote marriage as being the all important cornerstone of family and society. In so doing, it sets things up so that married people can access perks and benefits. Of course, if LGB people cannot get married, they cannot access them. The message, taken to its logical conclusion, is effectively “Heterosexual marriage should be encouraged and rewarded… but you LGBT people are clearly not as valuable to society and are thus undeserving of the potential for equal reward.”
Promise 2: “This Government will defend the most vulnerable”. “It will defend LGBT rights”.
There is one notable success for the Government here. Until this government, gay men were banned from donating blood, which has been a long standing bone of contention. Under this Government, that’s changed: Gay men are now allowed to donate blood… as long as they haven’t had sex in the last 10 years! Frankly, that’s really no better!
However, as a group, it is well documented that LGBT people are statistically far more likely to be “vulnerable” than the population as a whole – that much is kind of obvious really… and yet government cuts are hitting services important to many LGBT people, and they’re hitting those services hard!
Add to that the fact that an act introduced by the last Government aimed at simplifying a wide variety of laws relating to equality, including LGBT equality, has come under attack from this Government. The Equalities act is being presented to the public as possible red tape to be cut, and the Government are seeking comments on it on that basis. After overwhelming support for the act on the Government’s “Red Tape Challenge” website, the Government opted to re-present the question, leading many to believe that the Government will not be happy until it recieves the answers it wants as justification for weakening or removing these protections.
Promise 3: Those persecuted because of their sexual orientation will be afforded asylum in the UK.
in July 2010, shortly after the Government came into power, the UK Supreme Court ruled that the refusal to grant asylum to those who were persecuted because of their sexuality with the reasoning that “they can just go back and hide it to avoid persecution”, was a violation of human rights law. The Government welcomed this – publicly at least.
The Home Office told the UK Border Agency was that the new rules should be applied “with immediate effect” and that relevant cases should be “flagged and recorded”… but more than 7 months later, such cases are still not being counted and so there is no way of telling how the new rules are being applied…
… well, no accurate way, but there’s certainly a way to gauge it to some extent. We have had various highly publicised cases of people who have been refused asylum on grounds of persecution because of their sexuality:
There’s Brenda Namigadde, a Ugandan Lesbian who was initially refused entry following a ruling that she was not really a lesbian, on ground that since being in the UK she had “taken no interest in forms of media by magazines, books or other information relating to her sexual orientation.” -ignoring of course, the less-than-subsistence benefits she was surviving on while making her claim- and citing no evidence of her living a lesbian “lifestyle”. This, of course, irrespective of the fact that the publicity surrounding her case alone would surely have put her at risk if refused asylum.
More recently, we have the case of Betty Tibakawa, a Ugandan whom despite being branded with a hot iron twice on her inner thighs for being lesbian, and outed in the Ugandan magazine ‘Red Pepper’, has been refused asylum on grounds that she, again, is not genuinely gay, and faces no persecution in Uganda.
We have the case of Edson “Eddy” Cosmas, a gay man from Tanzania who was denied asylum at the first hurdle. The letter rejecting his claim, “attempts to paint the existence of bars where gay men are known to be found and other gay meeting places and gay organisations as indicating that it is possible to be gay, albeit ‘discretely’. Also, a lack of prosecutions is mentioned, presumably to suggest a lack of formal state repression and that it is ‘safe’ to return a gay man.”
LGBT Asylum News reports: “According to In interview, minor discrepancies in Eddy’s statements are taken as totally undermining his credibility. Many relate to his sexual history.”
These are just a selection of the higher profile requests for asylum – these are just some of those that have made headlines. With headlines like these, how common do you suppose this kind of thing is, especially among those who have not yet spent any time in the UK, or who don’t have the support of a network of friends and family here: those who don’t really have a voice to speak out about it?
Ironically, Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, not very long ago claimed success in his pledge that “those facing persecution would no longer be deported” … yet people applying for asylum on grounds of persecution because of their sexual orientation or trans identity are being put through the “detained fast track process”, which is almost purpose made for those who’s claims are uncomplicated and have very no real basis for the granting of asylum – in spite of the fact that LGBT claims are often notoriously complex.
This is a Government that really reached out for the “pink vote”, no doubt in part because the Conservatives wished tho shed the public perception of them as ‘the Nasty Party’. To the credit of the Lib Dems, at least on a party level they are the first to commit to Marriage Equality – though it should be noted the Nick Clegg is a Lib Dem too!
What will it take for this government to change course, stick to its word, and support LGBT people as it promised rather than hurt LGBT people? Perhaps it needs embarrasing into action? We can but try…
The Home Office, which in particular is the Government department responsible for the UK Border Agency which decides upon asylum claims. The Home Office won an award from major UK LGB campaigning organization Stonewall, topping it’s list of gay friendly employers. Does the Home office sound Gay friendly to you? It may generally treat it’s employees well, but it’s certainly not doing a lot for those LGBT people it’s supposed to be helping, and shows no inclination to enforce its own orders to do so either. Shouldn’t a Gay friendly employer not only be friendly to those LGBT people in its employment, but also be an LGBT friendly organization that happens to employ people?
Perhaps Stonewall ought to consider rescinding the award, in light of the Home Office’s treatment of LGBT asylum seekers, many of whom may well have been sent to their deaths, in the full and complicit knowledge of the UK Home Office. Perhaps they should be encouraged to rescind it: It’s certainly a start. Sign the petition.
I’m a left of left ultra liberal, socialist, eggheaded, feminist, antitheist, bisexual, anti-war, anti-corporatist, pro-labour, lesbian identified transwoman…. I don’t like conservatism because it stands against on pretty much every issue. But I also realize that people have and are entitled to different perspectives. There are LGBTQIA people who believe in fiscal and defense conservative issues. I don’t like their viewpoint, and I consider them “good queers” but i think they have a right to believe what they do.
Star Parker and others disagree however, they consider that should someone who is LGBTQIA, then they should have no right to claim the conservative mantle. No matter their belief on defense and fiscal issues according to Star Parker, the fact that they ignore levitical law, and focus on reality rather than God, means that they do not fit with her definition of marriage. It seems clear that the walkout from CPAC by many of the anti-equality social conservatives that they want to deny the right of LGBTQIA conservatives a voice or even in a place within the political movement they are a part of. Its good to see that some within the Conservative movement such as Mitch Daniels have made it clear that such intolerance is not welcome, and they need to move past it, but the backlash against him suggests that GOProud and the Log Cabin Republicans are certainly being kept out and thats outrageous given that 30% of LGBTQIA people voted for republican candidates this time (Allegedly).
Look I get it like Rush Limbaugh, that Star Parker wants to criminalize acceptance of LGBTQIA persons, and roll back any rights we have won. They cannot stand the idea that other conservatives are waking up to the realization that equality is right and just. The baptist god is not the absolute ruler of conservatism or the republican party, and denying the bile soaked religious dogma as the mantra of conservatism is the right way to go. Melanie Philips recently complained that David Cameron the conservative Prime Minister of the UK stood up for marriage equality, because while he is a fiscal conservative, and a defense conservative, he has not let the bigotry of social conservatives rule him. There will come the day when conservative republicans will recognizing that marriage equality is the right thing to do. I wish they would stand up for it today, but they are still cowards.
You damage your movement Star Parker, by trying to keep the new blood of the “Good Queers” out as well as their allies.
I’ve seen it reported in US media from time to time, that same sex marriage exists in the UK. It doesn’t. What exists in the UK is a segregated system of sexuality based apartheid. If you’re straight, you can get married, and if you’re LGBT, you can have a ‘civil partnership’. However, the issue of marriage equality is now emerging into UK public consciousness.
A civil partnership is largely like a marriage in terms of its legal effects, but it is not a marriage. In fact, it was deliberately stripped of any and all emotional or spiritual connotations entirely. A marriage in the UK is binding from the point that vows are spoken, and yet, a civil partnership is created instead from the signatures on a legal contract. A straight couple who hold a religious or spiritual faith may choose to incorporate elements of their beliefs into the ceremony. They have the option of making their marriage special in their way, and to honour their love and commitment in the manner most meaningful to them. LGBT people do not have this option. For married people, adulterous behaviour is grounds for divorce if they so choose -the same is not true of civil partners. Even if these differences did not exist, the law makes clear that a civil partnership is not a marriage. Marriage equality is what was sought, and the UK gave LGBT people something less. They deliberately segregated gay and straight people, and effectively said that gay people should not be afforded the right to get married or celebrate their love and commitment in anything that resembles a personal, spiritual way, and so creating a greater and a lesser form of partnership. In fact, this discrimination is so firmly entrenched that transsexual people, if married, must actually divorce only to then obtain a civil partnership in order to have their personal details officially corrected.
Ever since the Civil Partnerships Act recieved Royal Assent in 2004, there has been a cry for full marriage equality. A cry which is finally beginning to be heared across all three major political parties, with the Liberal Democrats having even gone so far as to make marriage equality a matter of their party policy… and well they might, as marriage equality in the UK is a very popular move to make. Opinion polls show a consistent majority in favour of equal rights and an end to the discrimination. Sadly though, the politicians are slow to practice what they preach.
Currently, the Government is faced with an opportunity and with pressure to end this discrimination as stipulated by legislation passed last year. The legislation makes very clear that no religious institution opposed to same sex partnerships would be required to perform them or to allow their places of worship to be used for them.
Many Liberal Democrats will no doubt be quick to claim any extention of LGBT rights towards marriage equality as a sign of their success and moral standing in Government. However, it should also be noted that the provisions which call for the change allowing LGBT people to involve their religious beliefs in their civil partnerships comes from an Equality Act, written last year under the leadership of a Labour Government (the self same act that effectively rolled back some of the rights of transsexual people, and decided that LGBT bullying in schools should not be specifically remedied). The implementation of the law allowing for this positive step towards marriage equality has in fact been delayed for a year by the current government. The fact is, when it comes to LGBT rights, none of the political parties have a particularly good record when it comes to actually fighting to do something about it -some worse than others, the worst, sadly, being the party leading the current Government!
Even so, this is a remarkably important step forward, at least in its potential, and it should be considered as such. The consultation undoubtedly will involve many churches vehemently opposed to marriage equality. These churches are worried that with the key difference in the ban on religious components to civil partnerships being removed, there would be no real reason not to call them marriages – and rightly so, because they’re right! However, there is no word from the Government on whether Civil Partnerships will be changed so that they may be referred to as marriages… it’s not really even on the agenda. The Government has simply suggested that it might think about it some time. The question is whether it is right that LGBT people who wish to be able to recognise their beliefs in a ceremony marking their partnership should be able to… and if their beliefs (or those of their church) allow for this, is there any fair reason why they should not be allowed to? No. There isn’t.
The right wing press is predictably spinning and overblowing the comments of church leaders to suggest a fear that they will be forced to perform gay marriages. It’s as predictable as it is tiresome. Left unchecked, extremist churches and right wing mariage equality opponents may well water down any eventual positive step towards marriage equality, or block it altogether. This should not be allowed to happen – at least not without firm opposition to such underhanded and homophobic intentions.
Fellow No More Lost writer Gemma, in her recent piece about France’s failure to ensure mariage equality, notes the way that the energy of the movement was lost following a homophobic court ruling in 2004. Reading her article, and noting the lack of widespread opposition to marriage equality, I have to wonder why. It seems to me that an explanation may be that unless related to an oppositional religious group, most heterosexual people aren’t exceptionally bothered by marriage equality, given that they don’t really have much cause to think about it and it doesn’t effect them.
For that reason, and that reason alone, as the issue of marriage equality enters the UK public consciousness, and as the right wing press spews out it’s typical homophobic propaganda and lies about the reality of what’s going on, it’s more important than ever that we make our case. It is more important than ever that we make ourselves heared. It is now more important than ever that we, LGBT people and our heterosexual allies, ensure that the public at large have more information than just the usual nationally disseminated lies and propaganda, and that the public consciousness of the issue also forms around an understanding of the wrongs and impacts that marriage INequality gives rise to.
I actually started writing an article about this back when coffee and markets, a conservative podcast, started talking about the end of Fusionism being possible because of the pulling out of several social conservative groups from CPAC after GOProud was accepted as a sponsor of the event.
Now at issue is a fundamental problem at the core of conservatism, as you can seem from this diagram from those nice people over at Red State, and their ideological purity against libertarians
Now the Fiscal Conservatives are the closest to the libertarian ideal, claimed by many in the Republican party and the Conservative movement. But this is more about the movement than the party, which has its own problems and issues.
The tripod on which conservatism stands, is somewhat strange if you think about the natural enmities. Libertarians are against regulation and top down government, which the Social conservatives crave. Defense focused conservatives are generally a fan of outrageous military spending, which should be an anathema to the fiscally conscious libertarians. The Social conservatives with a strong focus on supporting the needy and the poor woven into their faiths, should be totally opposed to the cutting of welfare demanded by the libertarians, and the libertarians being strong on personal freedoms should be opposed to the Defense focused conservatives agenda of interfering with other peoples round the world.
What you have here is an unholy trinity, of three things that are not alike fused together which rarely line up so tightly in other political systems producing this so called “True Conservative”. The fictional true conservative if following what’s talked about by the Conservative movement would be a libertarian, however that is not the result we get.
The Fiscals generally support the Social agenda, who then support the Defense agenda, who then come back round and support the Fiscals, all the while remaining somewhat united if not in ideals, but the core ideology they present, and many people are fusion of Social, Fiscal and Defense conservatives in their beliefs. We look in from the outside very baffled because we see the contradiction, without understanding the pact formed by these conservative movements, often in the hearts and minds of the members of the greater conservative movements.
Some interesting events have happend recently one being GOProud sponsoring CPAC, which is a group of LGBTQA people who identify with the Defense and Fiscal wings of conservatism, and are tolerant of the Social wing. Now the Social Conservatives derive at great deal of their appeal opposing gay rights and other areas of social progression, and so feel that they cannot present their message at a function sponsored by a group who effectively say “Its okay to be conservative and gay” and so have pulled out. Does this mean that the social conservatives and their key membership the evangelical christians are going to march out of the conservative movement and start out on their own, of course not, but the fracture has been seen, and its not one that will easily heal, even with all the frantic PR thats going on at CPAC at this very moment.
The second is that no matter how you feel about the elections, its clear that due in part due to a total failure of messaging by the Democratic party, that a libertarian slant was put on the American citizenry, irrespective of the tea party which still seems to be limited, in part due to their limited actual size which is far smaller than Fox news likes to say. The message sold to the American people, was “less government is good”, which sounded nicely libertarian, then they showed massive government waste by trying to repeal a law they know they cannot repeal, annoying the fiscals and then returned sharply to the social conservatives who have inserted 3 bills to attempt to restrict a woman’s right to choose. Also on the horizon, every single candidate for the RNC chair professed strong social conservative anti-gay rights views, as has the entire crop of probable 2012 candidates. Tim Pawlenty, long thought to be a strong moderate voice within the Republican party, has announced that he plans to try to repeal the repeal of Dont Ask Don’t Tell, because he really cares about…well clearly not moderate viewpoints any more.
Now sadly as much as I’d like to be preparing to dance on the grave of conservative fusion. Being a pro-welfare, pro-choice, queer culture promoting, muff munching, peacenik, pro-taxing the rich socialist I’d like nothing more than seeing an end to the hypocrisy of someone saying “we have to cut Medicaid, because we have to cut spending, but i need a hundred billion for this new fighter plane” or someone who says “I’m for small government, and protecting the traditional family”. However thats not the case yet, but it gives us an in. You probably know some conservatives, I’m friends with a few, but many of them are gonna be leaning a little bit more heavily on 2 of those legs than the other one, so I’m not saying have an argument, but maybe chip away at those fractures a little bit more and maybe we can put an end to this myth of bipolar politics in America.