Labour MEP Michael Cashman: The Government can’t be part time in the fight against homophobia

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Michael Cashman MEP has criticised the Culture Secretary for his apparent decision to block a minister from attending a European summit against homophobia.

According to the Sunday Times, Equalities Minister Sajid Javid blocked Lib Dem equalities minister Jenny Willott’s plans to attend an EU gay rights summit in Malta.

Speaking to PinkNews, Mr Cashman said: “My immediate reaction was how can you be part time about the defence of human rights and the fight against homophobia? I am attending that conference in Malta, it is deeply significant that  Malta, which has been a conservative catholic country for many years stepped forward, is moving forward, and hosting it with Sweden.

“I think it is a crucial stand for the defence of fundamental human rights at EU level and beyond. What really worries me about the Tory approach is that the they have come very very late in the day to the  whole issue of LGBT equality

“I remember for years and years even [David] Cameron defending retaining Section 28 and voting against its repeal.

“When you look at same-sex marriage, brilliant as it is, it was not achieved with Tory support – over half of the party voted against, and what I am deeply worried about is a lack of real commitment from within the party of Little Britain, and what it says when we try to defend the human rights of LGBT people in places like Somalia, Uganda, India, because they can turn around and say ‘you are absolutely hypocritical because you won’t do the same thing in the EU’.

“It’s a lack of joined-up government – you’ve got the foreign office trying to defend LGBT rights and you’e got the secretary of state for culture and equality saying ‘no we won’t support campaigning, or even the idea of, ending homophobia at EU level – it’s up to each member state.’ Do they seriously believe that it doesn’t affect us? Any British citizens going on holiday to these countries within the EU would like to think that they can’t experience discrimination on the grounds of their sexual orientation, their gender identity or whatever, but actually they can.”

He went on: “If we really want to defend British citizens – if they want to take that Little Britain approach – then they should make sure that the rights that are enjoyed in this country are promoted and achieved throughout the rest of the EU. That’s why it sends, to me, a deeply worrying signal about the Tory party’s real commitment to LGBTI equality.”

He went on to say that he would speak at the event, and that he thought there were many who wanted to push in the fight against homophobia.

“Whether he allows his minister to go or not is neither here nor there- I’ll be there, I’ll be speaking as a Labour politician. I’ll be speaking  as someone who’s come from the European Parliament with a fifteen year record, and I’ll be speaking on behalf of the decent citizens of this countries who believe that discrimination is something which needs to be referred back and kept in the middle ages, and has no part of modern Britain or modern Europe.”

The declaration against homophobia will be signed by 11 EU countries, but despite partly being drafted by British civil servants, the UK will not sign.

Javid was appointed last month to replace former Culture Secretary Maria Miller, who stood down over an expenses scandal.