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LGBTI people need to know Brexit will put our rights at risk

LGBTI people need to know Brexit will put our rights at risk

A Remain campaigner holds up a crying emoji in a circle of EU stars at a protest.

Brexit will leave UK LGBTI citizens worryingly vulnerable, says a new report from leading human rights lawyers we publish today.

I commissioned the report – Brexit: LGBTI Impact Assessment – without knowing all the facts myself.

But it seemed clear to me that nobody in the UK Government was thinking about LGBTI people in this process. And, while GSN has never published a formal report of this nature before, someone needed to look out for our community.

Now I have read what the experts say, I can see that we lose so much as LGBTI people.

Why should LGBTI people care about Brexit?

The UK Government’s current view is that they can jettison the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights – the highest standard of protection for LGBTI people currently available in international law – as superfluous. That certainly indicates trouble may lie ahead.

If you think that your sexuality or gender identity has little to do with what you stand to lose in the Brexit process, this report may alarm you. It sets out that LGBT rights have been driven forward by our EU membership and are underwritten by it. And it argues that LGBT people are even more likely than others to use rights granted by the EU.

The UK Government has stated we will not lose LGBT rights on the day we exit the EU. That is likely true, although this report shows we will lose benefits. Moreover, Europe will no longer drive the agenda on sexuality and gender identity rights in the UK, as it has  for two decades.

Even more seriously, we will lose the EU’s guarantees on the rights we have. LGBT Britons have frequently relied on those guarantees and there is no UK constitution to replace them.

LGBT people in this country remember the spectre of Section 28. We know therefore, that an unfriendly future government can enshrine homophobia or transphobia in law.

Our UK community is also well connected to LGBTIs in other parts of the world. As such, we have witnessed many examples of politicians reversing their rights with devastating consequences.

Britain has advanced in its overall attitudes to LGBTI people. But many of the senior UK politicians backing Brexit have openly homophobic and transphobic records. Trusting the future of the rights we have worked so hard to achieve to their goodwill seems to me to be reckless.

What can we do about it?

Immediately after the June 2016 Brexit vote, we saw that attitudes can rapidly change on the streets. In July, August and September of that year, hate crimes against LGBTI people rose 147%, measured against the same period in 2015.

As a community we can pretend this danger isn’t looming. Or we can do what we have always done – take responsibility personally and collectively for the protection and promotion of our rights.

I believe we are well-motivated to act. A straw poll carried out by Gay Star News just before the 2016 Brexit vote indicated that 77% of our readers wished to remain. More generally, polling since the referendum has seen a slow, but consistent, shift to scepticism about Brexit.

Brexiteers have argued that pro-EU voices in the UK should silently accept the course they are now plotting for us. But it is an exercise in democracy to openly argue for the future we wish to see.

I am deeply indebted to the report’s authors for taking on my commission pro-bono and for providing their unparalleled expertise on this subject. I hope their words will be read with care, and their warnings heeded, before it is too late.

Read more about Brexit: The LGBT Impact Assessment

You can download, read and share the full report here:

You can also read our summary of the report, and what you can do about it, here.

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