The LGBTI community and Brexit
Tomorrow in London tens of thousands of people from across the LGBTI community and our allies will come together to celebrate Pride. Pride is a celebration of our community and what we have achieved in the name of equality, but it’s also a protest and it’s political. On the biggest issue of the day – Brexit – our community must be political and we must make our voices heard.
It’s become hard to imagine that any government would roll back the rights we currently enjoy. David Cameron, a prime minister from a Party that 30 years ago was responsible for section 28, passed equal marriage legislation. We’ve had assurances from the hard line Brexiters there won’t be a bonfire of rights after Brexit. We’ve heard the warm words from Theresa May and her cabinet and a welcome commitment to ban conversion therapies. But when it comes to the final Brexit deal, warm words are not enough.
How Brexit could impact your life as a LGBTI person
In their recent paper ‘Brexit: The LGBT Impact Assessment’ Gay Star News identified several areas where EU involvement had led to positive outcomes for LGBTI people in the UK. From rights at work, and the principle of non-discrimination in the Charter of Fundamental Rights, to trans rights and the combating of homophobic legislation, the EU has been vital in promoting rights and tackling unjust UK law when the government will not.
As frightening as the prospect may be to our community it’s sadly not hard to imagine a future government undoing many of the advances we’ve made. Just look at President Trump in America. A country that had come so far, albeit with much further to go, has seen the rights of trans service personal undermined, homophobes appointed to the cabinet, and in Mike Pence a man with an appalling record on LGBTI rights picked as Vice President. Without the rights and protections afforded to the LGBTI community by the European Union, Brexit would put our rights in the hands of the next occupant of Downing Street in a way that we’ve not seen for decades.
The march towards equality has been intrinsically linked to our membership of the EU. It also provides for the protection of these rights with the potential to appeal to the Court of Justice of the EU. Leaving the EU and ditching the Charter of Fundamental Rights removes that avenue of appeal that over the years has proved decisive in extending our protections.
Using Pride to call for a People’s Vote
As a Labour Party supporter, I’m an internationalist and a key part of my internationalism is fighting for the rights of LGBTI people around the globe. By being a member of the EU, we are part of a 28-strong network of states that can champion LGBTI rights across the EU and around the globe. I don’t want the UK to lose its voice in that, to do so would be a failure to protect the most vulnerable LGBTI people worldwide.
The government’s plan for Brexit puts our rights as a community at risk and it threatens to divide us, making it harder for our voices to be heard. The shoddy deal they’re cobbling together isn’t what people voted for and it’s not what’s best for our country or our community. Members of our community– whether you backed leave or remain two years ago – did not vote for a bad Brexit that will undermine our human rights. Britain cannot afford a bad Brexit that undermines our hard-won rights. That’s why this Pride I’ll be using my voice to tell the government that we need a People’s Vote on the final deal.
Michael Cashman is a Labour Peer and acted as the LGBT global envoy for the UK government from 2014 to 2016.