The Conservatives have a dark past when it comes to LGBT+ rights. They have consistently voted against every piece of LGBT+ legislation put before them, including the recent bill to allow same-sex marriage. Surely, it’s time to apologise and make amends?
30 years ago, it was the Conservative MP Dame Jill Knight for Birmingham Edgbaston who introduced the infamous Clause 28. Clause 28 prohibited local authorities from “promoting” homosexuality and prevented spending on educational materials that “promoted a gay lifestyle”.
During this time, Conservative MPs including Theresa May herself, voted against gay adoption and the reduction in age of consent for homosexual acts. At great damage to many in our nation, those who were LGBT+ felt disgusted and ostracised from society, as the Conservatives time and time again undermined even our basic human rights.
In July 2000 Tony Blair’s Labour government attempted to repeal Clause 28, describing it as “pernicious” and “homophobic”. Under Iain Duncan Smith’s leadership, Tory MPs, Lords and Bishops rebuffed the attempt to repeal Clause 28. It would only be three years later after a Tory rebellion, a growing public consensus, and disastrous polling, that Tory MPs allowed the repeal to be successful. Finally, after decades of battling the Conservatives were LGBT+ people not made to feel like second-class citizens in the UK.
Bitter struggles for LGBT+ rights against the Conservatives continued, as Tory-led councils such as Kent decided to maintain the ‘spirit’ of Clause 28 in the curriculum of over 600 schools. Justification often cited the protection of children’s rights, the same argument we regularly see in Russia today.
But surely this is all in the past?
The more recent votes to promote LGBT+ equality has met fierce opposition from the Conservative front and backbenchers.
Theresa May herself has come under fire in more recent years for; voting against same-sex couples rights to seek IVF treatment in 2008, and in 2010 for using her power as Home Secretary to ensure public bodies had no responsibility to actively reduce inequality/LGBT+ discrimination.
To her credit Theresa May has apologised for voting against LGBT+ rights in the past. She also voted in favour of same-sex marriage, when put forward by the Liberal Democrats with David Cameron’s backing. Unfortunately, most Conservative MPs voted AGAINST same-sex marriage (136 AGAINST, 127 FOR), meaning even today the Conservative party as a political body has actively voted against every LGBT+ right put before them.
In 2017 when LGBT+ rights should be complete and unquestionable, the Conservatives have yet to prove that a majority of their MPs support us. Theresa May has taken steps backwards by appointing a homophobic MP, David Lidington, to the position of justice secretary and lord chancellor, during her negotiations with the DUP. Conservative MP David Lidington has voted against LGBT+ legislation at every opportunity, including same-sex marriage in 2013 & voted to maintain Clause 28 in 2003. Then of course, we have Theresa May’s DUP deal to maintain her power, which sends a regressive message on LGBT+ rights, when the DUP’s anti-LGBT+ stances are considered.
Even today Theresa May opts to allow homophobic Conservative MPs to serve in the cabinet. David Davis, a favourite to overthrow May, voted against; reducing the age of consent, voted against same-sex adoption, voted to maintain Clause 28, voted against same-sex marriage, and voted against making same-sex marriage available to our armed forces posted outside of the UK. The same can be said for other Cabinet Ministers such as Liam Fox, and to a lesser extent Boris Johnson.
It seems completely unfathomable that the LGBT+ community is yet to receive an official apology from Theresa May’s government, over their misguided and frankly homophobic policy positions in the past and present. Whilst the Conservative party has made strides in promoting LGBT+ individuals, such as Ruth Davidson and Justine Greening, the presence of deeply anti-LGBT individuals on the front benches is disturbing. I’ll await the day the Conservatives apologise and boot out anti-LGBT+ advocates, but I won’t be holding my breath.