Tony Blair: Major Gay Law Reforms, But Some Big Disappointments, Too




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■  Tony Blair.  Repealed anti-gay laws, but squandered many opportunities - Peter Tatchell.

LONDON, May10, 2007  –  As Tony Blair announced that he would be stepping down as Prime Minister on June 27, ending almost a year of speculation, Peter Tatchell, the gay human right campaigner and prospective Green Party candidate for Oxford East, spoke of the ‘Blair legacy’ when it comes to gay issues.

“During Tony Blair's Prime Ministership, anti-gay laws that had existed for decades, or even centuries, were repealed,” he said.

“Nearly all homophobic legislation was removed from the statute books in less than a decade – a truly breath-taking pace of reform that has greatly improved the lives of lesbian, gay and bisexual people.”

And he pointed out that would not have happened if the Conservatives had remained in power.

“Congratulations and thanks to the Labour government – and to MPs from all parties who backed gay law reform,” he said.

But, the legacy is not without its downside, Mr. Tatchell pointed out.

“He was sometimes reluctant to repeal homophobic legislation.  Soon after he was elected Prime Minister in 1997, Labour ditched its pre-election pledge to scrap the unequal age of consent and to end the ban on gays in the armed forces.

“These reforms only happened because the European Court of Human Rights ruled that this discrimination was illegal; thereby forcing the UK government to introduce equality.

“The outlawing of homophobic discrimination in the workplace was not initiated by Blair’s government.  It was the result of a European Union Directive that the UK was compelled to make law in 2003.  Previously, in 1998, Blair’s government three times vetoed parliamentary amendments to protect lesbians and gay men against workplace discrimination.”

Mr. Tatchell said that Labour – and Tony Blair – are still blocking other aspects of gay human rights.

“They support the ban on same-sex marriage, deport gay asylum seekers, and refuse to prohibit incitement to homophobic hatred.

“The battle for queer equality isn't finished yet,” he said.  “We still have a way to go.”

Peter Tatchell said that Tony Blair could have been one of Britain’s greatest reforming Prime Ministers.

“But he squandered many opportunities.

“While he achieved some positive changes – the Northern Ireland peace settlement, devolution, the Human Rights Act, civil partnerships and the minimum wage – mostly he has been a huge disappointment,” he said.

“As well as failing on key foreign policy issues such as Iraq, Zimbabwe, Palestine and Darfur, he created an unjust and heartless asylum system, began privatising health and education, and orchestrated the biggest assault on civil liberties in peacetime.

“Blair also presided over a widening gap between rich and poor, and authorised the wasting of billions of pounds on the Iraq war, national identity cards, and the renewal of Britain’s weapons of mass destruction, the Trident nuclear missile system,” Mr Tatchell concluded.


Posted: 10 May 2007 at 15:00 (UK time)


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