Comparing policies 2015: Where do the parties stand on LGBTIQ rights?

Part of a series which compares how the main Westminster parties approach particular issues ahead of May’s election.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer people are some of the most common sexuality minorities in the world. 78 countries around the world issue criminal punishments for homosexuality, 7 of which issue the death penalty.

  • Transgender people do not identify with the bodies they are born with, and often wish to change their physical gender through gender reassignment surgery. Transgender men are men who have a biologically female body, and transgender women are women who have a biologically male body.
  • Intersex people are those with both biologically male and biologically female characteristics who are ‘altered’ at birth to fit one gender or another, which is a controversial practice. Often, intersex people do not tend to identify with the gender chosen for them at birth. Instead of being either statically male or female, intersex people fit better along a spectrum.
  • Queer is an all-encompassing word for people who do not identify with traditional gender and sexuality roles. The word ‘queer’ was historically an insult often levied against gay people, but the term has since been reclaimed by the sexuality minority community.

The Conservative Party: In 2010, David Cameron pledged to make same-sex marriage legal in the UK, introducing the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill during his time in government. In a Parliamentary vote, 117 Tory MPs voted for same-sex marriage, and 128 voted against. [Source]

Last year, a Tweet by the Department of Education left LGBTIQ people scratching their heads. The Tweet claimed that it was “nonsense” to force schools to teach LGBTIQ-inclusive sex education, claiming that British values must be taught instead. This position was later ‘clarified’ with the DoE claiming that British values and LGBTIQ tolerance are the same thing. The Conservative-run DoE does not believe that LGBTIQ-inclusive sex education should be compulsory. [Source]

From the manifesto:

  • “We will build on the posthumous pardon of Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing, who committed suicide following his conviction for gross indecency, with a broader measure to lift the blight of outdated convictions of this nature. Thousands of British men still suffer from similar historic charges, even though they would be completely innocent of any crime today. Many others are dead and cannot correct this injustice themselves through the legal process we have introduced while in government. So we will introduce a new law that will pardon those people, and right these wrongs” (pg. 46)

Progressive-o-meter rating: 7.

The Labour Party: In a Parliamentary vote on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, 22 Labour MPs voted against same-sex marriage, and a further 16 did not vote at all. [Source]

In 2014, Labour announced that blind trans woman Emily Brothers will stand in the 2015 general election. Ed Miliband claimed to be “so proud” that his party has chosen Brothers to represent Labour. [Source]

This year, Ed Miliband pledged support for a Turing’s Law, which would allow the government to review, on a case-by-case basis, gay sex criminal convictions for deceased persons. Miliband refused to commit to a total expunge of all gay sex convictions and ruled out an out-right pardon of those convicted, claiming that examining and removing each conviction individually is the best way to bring justice to those who were persecuted for their sexuality. [Source]

From the manifesto:

  • “We will introduce compulsory age-appropriate sex and relationships education. We will encourage all schools to embed character education across the curriculum, working with schools to stop the blight of homophobic bullying.” (pg. 39)
  • “We will also build on our history of championing LGBT rights, tackling homophobia with tougher laws at home and greater engagement abroad” (pg. 67)
  • “And we will appoint an International LGBT Rights Envoy to promote respect for the human rights of LGBT people, and work towards the decriminalisation of homosexuality worldwide” (pg. 76)

Progressive-o-meter rating: 9.

The Liberal Democrats: In a Parliamentary vote on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, 4 Lib Dem MPs voted against same-sex marriage, and a further 7 did not vote at all. [Source]

This year, the Lib Dems pledged to allow British embassies in all countries to perform same-sex marriages, even if one of the partners is not a British citizen. This effectively legalizes gay marriage in every country that Britain has an embassy in, provided one of the marrying partners has British citizenship. [Source]

From the manifesto:

  • “[We will] give legal rights and obligations to cohabiting couples in the event of relationship breakdown or one partner dying without a will […] Support schools to tackle homophobic and transphobic bullying and discrimination, and to establish a tolerant and inclusive environment for all their pupils. We will remove schools’ exemption from the bar on harassment in these areas […] Promote international recognition of same sex marriages and civil partnerships as part of a comprehensive International LGBT Rights Strategy that supports the cause of decriminalising homosexuality in other countries” (pg. 107)
  • “[We will] seek to pardon all those with historic convictions for consensual homosexual activity between adults. Enhance the experience of all football fans by making homophobic chanting a criminal offence […] Ask the Advisory Committee on Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs periodically to review rules around men who have sex with men donating blood to consider what restrictions remain necessary” (pg. 107)

Progressive-o-meter rating: 9.

The UK Independence Party: UKIP was not represented in Parliament at the time of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill.

A large number of high-profile UKIP officials have made statements hostile to LGBTIQ rights, including Parliamentary candidates who have denied that homophobia exists, and councillors who claimed that flooding across the UK is God’s punishment for tolerating LGBT people. Although Nigel Farage claims that Christian rights are threatened by same-sex marriages, he confirmed that UKIP would not seek to repeal the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill if they formed a government. [Source] [Source]

In the Bite The Ballot interview, Nigel Farage claimed that homophobia is a thing of the past. [Source]

From the manifesto:

  • “[Primary school sex education risks] encouraging experimentation […] Parents must be made fully aware of the sex education teaching materials being used, before their children see it, and we will continue to respect their right to withdraw children from sex-education classes if they wish” (pg. 29)
  • No other mention of LGBTIQ rights is made, and a party spokesman confirmed that this is because UKIP does not cater to “special interest groups” [Source]

Progressive-o-meter rating: 0.

The Green Party: In a Parliamentary vote on the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, Caroline Lucas, the only Green MP, voted for same-sex marriage and described it as a “historical occasion” [Source]

The Green’s manifesto is the most comprehensive of all party manifestos on the issue of LGBTIQ rights, and is the key to understanding their policy:

  • “We will legislate to remedy inequality in pension inheritance for same-sex marriage partners and same-sex civil partners. Consider reducing the 12-month blood donation deferral period for men who have sex with men, based on individual risk assessment where the donor is identified to not be at risk of passing infections into the blood supply. Apologise to and pardon all 50,000-100,000 men convicted of consenting adult same-sex relations under anti-gay laws that have been repealed” (pg. 26)
  • [We will] provide mandatory HIV, sex and relationship education – age appropriate and LGBTIQ inclusive – in all schools from primary level onwards. Require every school to have an anti-bullying programme that explicitly combats homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic bullying. Combat homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic bullying by ensuring uniform legislation against all forms of hate crime. End the cuts to the NHS, which have undermined HIV services and made it harder for trans people to access gender reassignment services” (pg. 26)
  • [We will] end the detention of LGBTIQ (and other) asylum seekers and the culture of disbelief that often denies them refugee status. Challenge criminalization, discrimination and violence against LGBTIQ people in other countries and work in solidarity with campaigners there. Press the Commonwealth to grant acredited status to a Commonweath LGBTIQ Association and to urge all members to end the criminalization of homosexuality and to protect LGBTIQ citizens against discrimination and end hate crime” (pg. 26)

Progressive-o-meter rating: 10.

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