In the past week, the Conservatives, Labour, and the Liberal Democrats have released their 2017 election manifestos. We’ve taken a look at each manifesto to see how they measure up on direct LGBT issues, welfare and support.
The Conservatives: “Forward, Together”
There is no mention of LGBT issues in the Tory manifesto. Though Theresa May called for “urgent action” from the government to save the lives of LGBT people in Chechnya, HISKIND revealed that no such action has been made.
Chapter 11, A More Equal Society, contains a section dedicated to LGBT equality. The party acknowledge that “there is still a long way to go on issues such as education, equal access to public services, levels of LGBT hate crime, and mental and physical wellbeing.”
Labour promise to reform the Gender Recognition Act to be more inclusive of trans people and to update the Equality Act 2010 to ensure it adequately protects trans individuals. LGBT hate crimes would be brought into line “with hate crimes based on race and faith, by making them aggravated offences.”
In schools, sex and relationship education and teacher training would be implemented to ensure LGBT inclusivity and help tackle LGBT bullying. They also promise ongoing training for all frontline health and social care professionals to make sure LGBT individuals have their needs met. Labour would also get NHS England to complete PrEP trials “as quickly as possible” and to “fully roll out the treatment to high-risk groups to help reduce HIV infection.”
With respect to international diplomacy, they promise to appoint a dedicated LGBT rights global ambassador – as well as ambassadors for women’s rights and religious freedom – to “fight discrimination and promote equality globally.”
The Lib Debs make multiple promises regarding LGBT issues throughout their manifesto. Within an extensive section dedicated to mental health, they pledge to “Ensure that LGBT+ inclusive mental health services receive funding and support.” A proposal for a reworked curriculum includes mental health education and age-appropriate Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) that covers sexual consent and LGBT+ relationships. They also propose to extend the Equality Act to cover all companies with more than 250 employees, which would require them “to monitor and publish data on gender, BAME, and LGBT+ employment levels and pay gaps.” Within politics, they would introduce legislation “to allow for all-BAME and all-LGBT+ parliamentary shortlists.”
On an international scale, the Lib Dems aim to stand up for liberal values. This includes developing “a comprehensive strategy for promoting the decriminalisation of homosexuality around the world and advancing the cause of LGBT+ rights.”
The Green Party – “A Confident and Caring Britain” Under the heading “a citizens’ democracy”, they explain that, “We want everyone to have a voice, not just those who have the loudest voices, the deepest pockets or the most powerful friends.”
As such, they promise: “Action to tackle racism and discrimination on the basis of faith or disability, real equality for LGBTIQA+ people, equal rights for mixed gender couples to have a Civil Partnership.”
Although focussed on Scottish issues, the SNP include various promises to the LGBT+ community. They promise to continue “to demand full devolution of equality law to the Scottish Parliament,” but in the meantime they “will seek equality law reforms to ensure same-sex couples have equal pension rights and protected characteristics are expanded to ensure all LGBTI people are fully protected from discrimination and harassment.”
They pledge their support to the “establishment of a special envoy to promote the rights of LGBTI” on an international scale, hoping to “alleviate the discrimination and persecution faced” in places such as Chechnya. They also promise reform to the asylum system for LGBT+ individuals fleeing persecution, “removing unfair and invasive demands for ‘proof’ of sexuality or gender identity.”
There is no mention of LGBT+ rights or issues in the Plaid Cymru manifesto, which is primarily focussed on defending Welsh interests.
UKIP, perhaps not known for their pro-LGBT stance, make a couple of mentions of LGBT issues in their manifesto. They promise a test of “social attitudes of migration applicants to foster community cohesion and protect core British values,” which include not “treating women or gay people as second-class citizens.”
This has already been criticised, as no such assessment seems to apply for UKIP party members. Just this week, UKIP candidate for South Bristol came under fire for comparing LGBT anti-racism marchers to “Jews for Hitler”. He tweeted: “#LGBT marching against #Islamophobia ?!? It’s like Jews marching for Hitler”.
Flo Lewis, chair of LGBT in UKIP, is quoted in the manifesto: “Those of us who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender may have first hand experience of how misogynistic and homophobic attitudes are tolerated in the name of ‘respecting cultural differences.’ It is important to stand up for true equality in the face of those who would dismiss it.” The party has also selected candidates who have claimed that same-sex marriage is an “attack on Christianity by destroying the institution of marriage” and referred to the LGBT community as the “Gaystapo”.
Leaders’ Voting Records
Theresa May has a mixed record on voting for LGBT+ rights: 8 votes for, 10 votes against and 9 absences, between 2002 and 2014. In the late 1990s, she voted against reducing the age of consent for homosexual acts from eighteen to sixteen, bringing it in line with heterosexual sex. In April, appearing on The Andrew Marr Show, she was asked whether she thinks gay sex is a sin: “No,” she abruptly replied.
Jeremy Corbyn has consistently voted for equal gay rights: 23 votes for, 0 votes against, 4 absences, between 1999 and 2014. Corbyn campaigned against Section 28 in the 1980s, which banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools. He was the only Labour MP to vote in favour of a 1998 Liberal Democrat amendment that aimed to outlaw discrimination based on sexuality. He was recently criticised for saying that people “chose” to be gay or lesbian, but was defended by many, with a spokesperson clarifying that, “He obviously meant people should be able to choose how they live their lives” and not their sexual orientation.
Tim Farron got into hot water recently after refusing to deny that, as a christian, he thought gay sex was a sin. Eventually, he clarified his position: “I don’t believe gay sex is a sin. I take the view that as a political leader, my job is not to pontificate on theological matters but this has become a talking point, an issue – and in that case, if people have got the wrong opinion of what I think of those issues, it’s right to correct it.” In Parliament, he has generally voted for equal LGBT rights: 6 votes for, 1 vote against and 3 absences, between 2007 and 2014. He voted no on Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations in 2007, but consistently voted in favour of allowing same sex couples to marry.
Caroline Lucas, MP for Brighton 2010 to 2017 and a proud supporter of the legendary Brighton LGBT+ scene, has unsurprisingly voted consistently for gay rights, with 7 votes for and 0 against between 2013 and 2014.
Paul Nuttall, Leanne Wood and Nicola Sturgeon have not served as MPs and have no parliamentary voting record.