Q&A: Ed Miliband backs Humanist weddings and trans children

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

PinkNews Exclusive
Ed Miliband has said his party will review the law to permit Humanist weddings in England and Wales, in a Q&A with PinkNews.

Ahead of May’s general election, all the main UK party leaders are taking part in Q&As with PinkNews readers.

Responding to questions during his Q&A session, the Labour leader said he would “do his best” to support his children if any of them came out as transgender, revealed he has attended a same-sex wedding, and backed the legal recognition of humanist weddings in England and Wales.

An amendment to the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act for England and Wales which would have legalised humanist was withdrawn during its Third Reading amid concerns that it would open up marriage to Pagan and Jedi ceremonies. Humanist weddings are already legal in Scotland.

Read Mr Miliband’s answers below:

Q – Billy Connelly (Humanist weddings): Many have turned to Humanist celebrants in Scotland, where Humanist marriages are legally recognised. Will your party advance legislation to remove the discrimination against the growing number of humanists in the rest of the UK?

A – There was widespread support for humanist marriage across Parliament during the passage of Equal Marriage and across the country, including from Labour. We still support the legal recognition of humanist marriages and we’ll review the law for those who wish to marry with a humanist celebration.


Q – Dr Anthony James (Transgender children): If one of your sons, Daniel or Samuel, was to identify as a gender different to that they were assigned at birth, how would you feel and how would you act? Would there be a difference between the two?

A – I love my sons unconditionally – and I would do my best to be as supportive as possible.


Q –  Stanley from Manchester (Same-sex weddings): Ed, have you attended, or do you plan to attend a same-sex wedding? Despite all supporting equal marriage, so far none the party leaders have actually openly attended a gay couple’s wedding. Will you make the time to do so?

A – I went to the wedding party of my friends Ray Collins (Baron Collins of Highbury) and his partner Rafael just before Christmas. They were converting their civil partnership into a full marriage. It was a great bash and I’d love to be invited to something similar soon.


Q – Peter Swallow (Gender recognition laws): Labour has repeatedly promised to hold a comprehensive review of trans policies in the next parliament, and Yvette Cooper also promised this at the PinkNews election debate; so why wasn’t this pledge included in your manifesto? Can you confirm that you are committed to carrying out this review?

A – We recently published our dedicated LGBT manifesto which sets out how we need to go much further to ensure people feel as though Britain is a country in which identity is respected and supported.

The pace at which the rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual people have improved in recent years has not been replicated for trans rights. Labour will look to strengthen those by undertaking a review of gender identity law and policy.


Q – John Mundy (Overseas aid): Is it right for the UK to give overseas aid to homophobic countries? Is it right for the UK to trade with homophobic countries? Would we do either with racist countries?


Q – Becky Morgan (Overseas aid): The UK currently has very strong relationships with countries like Brunei and Saudi Arabia, both of which have disgusting records when it comes to gay rights- they are two of the richest countries still with the death penalty for gay sex. Would you threaten to abandon arm sales to these countries unless they change their laws , as Natalie Bennett advocates or is the money that the UK makes from this too important to the economic recovery to risk this?
A – Labour will do its utmost to place overseas aid directly to groups that are meeting the needs of LGBT communities and human rights activists, rather than governments.

It’s true that we don’t see eye to eye with some of Britain’s allies in every regard, but we believe engagement with governments on human rights is the best means of bringing change, gradual though it may be.

We can work at this through our prominent role in multilateral institutions such as the UN, and through our own bilateral relationships. A Labour Government will always advocate for LGBT rights to be upheld by other governments.


Q – Lord (Guy) Black of Brentwood (Reparative therapy): It’s concerning that in 2015 there’s still a belief, held by some, that gay people can be “cured”. Do you think it’s now time to bring forward legislation to ban “reparative therapy” for gay people, and would you do so?

A –  Being LGBT is not an illness and it should never be treated as something which should be ‘curable’. We oppose the use of ‘conversion’ or ‘cure’ therapies and under Labour public money will never be spent on them.

A voluntary register for unregulated health care professionals, such as counsellors, has been established, and in government we will want to review the effectiveness of that and keep the need for statutory regulation of counsellors under review.


Q – Richard Branson (SRE): Will Mr Miliband agree with me that the best way to tackle this is through early lessons in schools on Sex and Relationship Education?


Q – June from Bedford (SRE): I commend Labour’s plans to introduce statutory LGBT-inclusive sex and relationship education for state-funded schools. However, the job is left half-finished when private religious schools are still free to just ignore it. If a Labour government believes LGBT people have a right to receive statutory SRE – why doesn’t this extend to private schools?

A – Labour will introduce compulsory age-appropriate sex and relationship education (SRE) that teaches children about mutual respect and healthy relationships. This will ensure children in all state schools learn about respect for others, including different families, and why bullying is wrong.

Our policy applies to state schools but we would like to see private schools follow the lead of the state sector – good private schools already do this.


Q – Harry Small, Baker & McKenzie (Diplomacy) : What more can be done by the UK government to end discriminatory treatment and persecution of the LGBT community in the Commonwealth and beyond?


Q- Roberta Simpson (Russia and Brunei): If you became Prime Minister, it is highly likely that you will meet the Vladmir Putin as well as the Sultan of Brunei. I would like to know what you would say to President Putin about his country’s record on LGBT rights, in particular the laws passed recently that ban the ‘promotion of homosexuality’. When you meet the Sultan of Brunei, what would you say to him about the law that he passed last year to stone gay people to death? Would you threaten to boycott Brunei?

A – Human rights lie at the heart of Labour’s foreign policy. As a sign of our deep commitment to promoting LGBT rights globally, we’ll appoint Britain’s first ever International Envoy for LGBT rights, who will be Michael Cashman. Be sure that a Labour Government will work tirelessly towards the decriminalisation of homosexuality worldwide, the protection of trans people, and the repeal of “anti-propaganda” and other discriminatory laws and practices.


Q – Wayne Clegg (HIV): Last year it became unlawful to make certain types of extreme porn in the UK. However, it remains entirely legal to feature ‘bareback sex’ on UK pornography, gay or straight. Why is this and would he change the law to outlaw the production of ‘bareback porn’ as has happened in other countries and territories in order to reduce HIV transmissions?

A – With HIV infections on the rise, we need to ensure that everyone has access to the right information about safe sex and that people in a position to influence take a responsible attitude.



Q – Barry Atkinson and John (Pensions): We are a same-sex couple. My husband and I married on December 10th 2014, and as we had our Civil Partnership ceremony on November 8th 2008, the latter was deemed to be the date of our marriage.

As I am in my early 70s I am concerned that my teacher’s pension and other smaller pensions I hold (including my “old age pension”) will not be passed on to my younger husband in the event of my dying before him. I am aware that the monies due to him are not equal to those inherited by a same-sex couple, and so will you let me know just what progress is being made?

A – Labour ensured in 2005 that those in civil partnerships are entitled to survivor benefits, and those benefits have grown since.

We know there is still some way to go before they catch up with the way people live today. With our persuasion the current government looked at how to further equalise benefits for all married couples, but as yet we haven’t seen any clear recommendations. It will be left to the next Labour government to look at how we can make progress in this area, which is such concern to gay couples and others.


Q – Alistair Craig (LGBT issues in the workplace): Discussion of LGBT+ issues too often ignores how our identity affects us in the workplace. With that in mind, what would a Labour government do about the LGBT+ pay gap?

A – We want a Britain where no LGBT person is held back or discriminated against because of their sexuality or gender. How people are treated at work is a vital part of that. We will promote equality reps at work, and we will abolish the Government’s employment tribunal fee system. Cost should never be a barrier to workers having proper access to justice.


Q – The Bishop of Buckingham (Church of England): The legislation around equal marriage contained important protections for the consciences of clergy opposed to marrying gay people.

However, it contained no protection for the consciences of clergy who want to perform same-sex weddings – or indeed gay clergy who want to marry themselves.

These clergy have routinely been subject to harassment and victimisation – and this even led in one instance to an Archbishop blocking someone from a promotion within the NHS.

Many other licensed clergy are now in fear of their position in public service jobs in which they had felt safe. What plans do our politicians have to remedy this manifest injustice?

A – Discrimination in the workplace is against the law and we should root it out wherever it occurs. It is up to the Church to decide upon its internal rules, but it is welcome that the Church of England now allows blessings for same sex marriages to be performed. It’s a good thing that society has moved a long way in a short space of time, and much of the opposition that did exist has already melted away.


Q – Keith Reynolds (Spousal veto): In 2014, the Conservatives brought in the Spousal Veto, which means that married transgender people have to have their partner’s permission for them to transition. Does the Labour party have any
policies to change this?

A – Labour will definitely be looking at the issue of the spousal veto as part of the review we’ve committed to. I’ve said previously that there is a case for looking again at the relevant aspects of the Same Sex Marriage legislation to see if we can’t bring about a better balance between the rights of both spouses. We fully recognise the importance of this issue for the trans community, and we’re aware that Scotland has already removed the provision.


Q – Christie Elan-Cane (Gender X passports): Labour Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper recently responded to a question at PinkNews Debate that concerned non gender-specific ‘X’ Passports and the wider issue that surrounds ‘X’ Passports, i.e. the current lack of recognition and provision in general for non-gendered people in the UK.

It was acknowledged that existing ‘equalities’ legislation is out of date. Yvette Cooper pledged the Labour Party would conduct a “specific review” of policy and legislation governing trans* issues. I would argue that existing legislation has always failed and does continue to fail those of us whose identities cannot be defined as either male or female.

My question therefore, would Ed Miliband care to elaborate on the proposed measures outlined by the former Shadow Home Secretary, and would he confirm whether there is definitive intention that the Labour Party, if elected to govern, would not just ‘review’ the situation but would commit to change existing discriminatory passport policy and implement the issuing of ‘X’ Passports to those who require non gender-specific documentation without further delay?

A – We need to go much further to ensure that Britain is a country which respects different identities. It is over ten years since the Gender Recognition Act was passed and our review would take a thorough look at issues surrounding gender identity. The specific issue of ‘X’ Passports will form part of that, but I’m not going to pre-empt the conclusions of the review.


Click here to read Nick Clegg’s PinkNews Q&A. Q&As from David Cameron, Natalie Bennett, Nicola Sturgeon and Nigel Farage will be published soon.


PinkNews election coverage is generously supported by KPMG.
Q&A: Ed Miliband backs Humanist weddings and trans children