During the Spring 2015 Liberal Democrat Conference, the LGBT+ Liberal Democrats moved an amendment aimed towards extending the Memorandum of Understanding on Conversion Therapy—which effectively prohibits the use of sexual orientation conversion therapy on the NHS—to transgender people. Originally, the amendment was a much larger policy motion, but after it fell at the Federal Conference Committee due to time concerns, the motion was repurposed into an amendment. The original mover of the amendment was LGBT+ Chair Dave Page, who switched with Sarah (Elizabeth) Brown to allow her to move the amendment, with the summation waived by Dave to me. The amendment passed without opposition, and my speech is, as always, below the cut.
As well as moving the sex work motion on Saturday, I had also written a speech regarding the federal policy paper on equality, which had been written and drafted by several people including the lovely Cantabridgians Zoe O’Connell and Belinda Brooks-Gordon (who had helped with, and summated, on the sex work motion). It’s a really good, and rather radical, motion, and I put in a card to speak on the trans aspects of the motion. Most of the debate centred around a Humanist and Secularist Liberal Democrats amendment regarding faith schools admissions, but I was eventually called… immediately after Zoe, who had already covered parts of my speech. As previously, the speech is below the cut.
There’s been a flurry of news stories in the past week, most likely to coincide with the country’s first same-sex marriages starting next Saturday, regarding how the bill came to pass. Firstly, we had television personality Paul O’Grady describe David Cameron as a “twat” and state the Lib Dems were “as much use as men’s tits”. Then, a few days later, Ben Summerskill tried (very unconvincingly) to attack the Lib Dems for being “opportunistic” on same-sex marriage. And finally, Tony Blair said that “in hindsight”, he would’ve pushed for marriage equality whilst Prime Minister. All this leads me to think one thing: both Labour and Stonewall seem to be very keen to take the credit on LGBT equality, especially with a general election round the corner. But this credit is perhaps undeserved, especially as they both seem to have done everything they could to stall it.
As everyone will no doubt be aware by now, especially through the Independent’s front page on Tuesday, 45 schools stood accused of reintroducing the homophobic Section 28 through their sex and relationship education policies. Whether it’s through deliberate malice or lazy copy-and-pasting of outdated advice – and I’m strongly inclined to believe it’s the latter in most cases – it couldn’t come at a more opportune time, especially when eyes are on Russia for their similar (but much more enforced) law on “homosexual propaganda” and in the wake of a protracted marriage equality debate where several reactionaries were claiming, above NUT advice, that teachers were in danger of being forced to teach about homosexuality!
Something I note with some despair is the assertion that marriage equality is not a transgender issue. The argument goes that it’s primarily an LGB issue and trans people only get consequential benefits from it. Well, that’s not really accurate, as our history, and the history of others, shows.
So, the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act got given Royal Assent yesterday and, while I’m happy at the general idea of people in same-gender marriages being able to marry, I’m not singing Dancing Queen and waving my pride flag just yet. Because the legislation contains a rather insidious prejudiced open secret: the spousal veto. The lovely Sarah Brown, who should be thanked for her tireless campaigning for trans marriage equality, has a brilliant blog post about it here. I don’t want to duplicate her too much, so if you haven’t read it, do so now. And while government ministers and even some opposition MPs alike are pretending it’s not a veto, the way it works means it is.
Were I to grade the legislation, I’d give it 6/10, could do better. In the abstract, it’s a good bill, in so much as two people of the same gender will be able to marry. However, there are some seams in which the concept of equal marriage start to fray.