OXFORD, May,13, 2006 – There is still an ongoing battle for freedom for
gay mean and women, Peter Tatchell of Outrage! said in Oxford today as he
attacked “New Labour” and the Blair administration for not going far enough
in introducing legislation that gives both equality to the LGBT community
and reduces homophobia.
“The Labour Government has enacted
several very welcome – and positive – reforms for lesbian, gay, bisexual and
transgendered people, such as equalising the age of consent, allowing LGBT
people to serve in the military and adoption rights for same-sex couples,”
he said at National Student Pride.
“But these progressive changes are
no excuse for the government’s current backing of homophobic discrimination
in 11 key policy areas,” he told students.
Speaking in the Student Union of
Oxford Brookes University, Mr. Tatchell said: “Labour deems it is
acceptable for charities to discriminate against LGBT people – and those
with HIV. Yet it is refusing to amend the Charities Bill to make equal
opportunities for everyone a condition of charitable status.
■ Peter Tatchell speaking at National
The Equality Bill, he pointed out,
will extend anti-discrimination initiatives and once enacted all public
bodies will have a legal duty to combat discrimination based on race, gender
“But not discrimination based on
sexual orientation, or even age.
“As a result, local councils and
other public bodies such as the police and civil service will remain free to
do nothing to tackle homophobic and transphobic prejudice, harassment and
Turning to gay marriage and civil
partnership, he accused Labour of backing the ban on same-sex marriage. “It
supports a system of sexual apartheid where gays are banned from marriage
and straights are banned from civil partnerships. This two-tiered system of
partnership law is not equality – it perpetuates and extends discrimination.
“Then, Labour is refusing asylum to
LGBT people who have been jailed, tortured and raped in countries like
Jamaica, Iran, Algeria and Zimbabwe,” he continued. “The Home Office says
they won’t be at risk of arrest – or even murder – if they hide their
sexuality and behave “with discretion”. Hundreds are being deported and
many of them are never heard of again.”
Along with the police and the Crown
Prosecution Service, Mr. Tatchell said that Labour allowed homophobic reggae
singers to openly advocate the murder of LGBT people.
“Record stores and radio stations
are permitted to promote CDs inciting homophobic violence. The government
would never tolerate similar ‘murder music’ against Jewish or black people.
When we complained about the homophobic lyrics of some reggae music, nothing
happened – only excuses.
“Labour has exempted religious
bodies from the new laws against homophobic discrimination in the
workplace. This means that religious-run institutions – such as schools,
hospitals, care homes and hospices – are, in certain limited circumstances,
free to discriminate against LGBT employees.
“And the Labour government has
failed to ensure that sex education and AIDS advice lessons address the
specific needs of young lesbians and gays,” he continued. “This failure is
particularly serious when it comes to safer-sex information for teenagers n
same-sex relationships – it is putting their welfare and lives at risk.
Mr. Tatchell then pointed out that
a new law against incitement to religious hatred has been enacted, but the
government refuses to pass a law prohibiting incitement to homophobic
hatred. “Double standards, yet again,” he suggested, adding that when a
fundamentalist Muslim cleric had called for gays and lesbians to be killed,
the Crown Prosecution Service refused to prosecute. “But when a Muslim
cleric called for the murder of Jews, he got four years imprisonment,” he
“Labour initially rejected calls
for laws against homophobic discrimination in the provision of goods and
services, such as housing and insurance, and in hotels, bars, restaurants
and other leisure facilities.
“It only belatedly agreed an
amendment to the Equality Bill to cover LGBT people. But this will not
become law for at least a year – why do we have to wait, when religious
minorities get immediate protection?
“As it stands, the Equality Bill
enshrines wide-ranging anti-discrimination protection on the grounds of
religion or belief, but not on sexuality. It is great that we will
eventually get protection, but why were we excluded in the first place,” he
Mr. Tatchell reminded students that
Labour had vetoed the inclusion of education against homophobia in the
National Curriculum Religious Education Guidelines.
“While all other forms of
discrimination is addressed in the Guidelines, the government bowed to
pressure from religious fundamentalists to exclude understanding and
acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people,” he said.
“Finally, Labour has announced its
intention to ban lesbians from receiving fertility treatment on the National
Health Service. When a Labour government still thinks that every child
needs a mother and a father, alarm bells must surely ring.
“These are eleven instances where
Labour could have overturned homophobia, but chose to maintain
discrimination. Labour talks about equality, but often fails to deliver –
and there is no justification for their failure to remedy these injustices.”
Earlier, Sue Sanders, the
co-founder of Schools Out and one of the main organisers of LGBT History
Month, suggested that most of the audience had faced enormous difficulties
“Schools are heterosexulalist
places,” she said, adding that the Department for Education and Skills (DfES)
were failing to address the problem.
Ms. Sanders admitted that her
relationship with the police 20 years ago was not good, as was the case for
all LGBT people.
“But today, the police are here and
have a stand at this Pride,” she point out.
“But where is the DfES? Well, they
are massively cautious and frightened.”
She called for the National Union
of Students – and individual students to campaign to to get all schools
included in the Goods and Services Bill.
“If we can get this included, it
will then be illegal for lesbians and gays to remain invisible,” she said.
On the international front, Derek
Lennard, the UK coordinator of International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO),
said that last year IDAHO events were organised in some 50 countries.
“This year, there will be more,” he
“Last year in Iran, where it is
simply not possible to have a public event, gays did something quietly.
“They sent out hundreds of emails
to people in other countries asking that they support IDAHO,” he revealed,
adding that in the UK we should focus on IDAHO on May 17 and support local
“Most of you probably know that
there are problems in Moscow where they are having the first-ever Pride in
Russia in two week’s time.
“There is considerable resistance
from the Mayor of Moscow who can only find excuses why there shouldn’t be a
parade – most of the excuses based on the public remarks from Russian
“But the Russian LGBT community is
determined to march – and we will be there to march with them and to defend
their rights,” he said.