Q&A: Natalie Bennett on polyamory, Gender X passports and ‘gay cure’ therapy

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PinkNews Exclusive
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett has made commitments to introducing Gender X passports, ending the gay blood donation ban, and said she is “open” to legal recognition for relationships between more than two people.

Ms Bennett addressed a number of LGBT issues in a Q&A with PinkNews readers ahead of this month’s general election.

As well as saying her party would be “open” to considering legal recognition for polyamorous relationships, Ms Bennett backed the introduction of Sex and Relationship Education (SRE) in all schools, said the Green party would lift the deferral period for gay and bisexual men giving blood, and called ‘gay cure’ therapy “unacceptable and damaging”.

The Green Party is launching its own LGBT Manifesto in the Soho area of London later today.

PinkNews recently published Q&As with Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, and will soon publish one with Leanne Wood of Plaid Cymru and Nicola Sturgeon of the SNP.

Read the full Q&A below

Q – Dr Redfern Jon Barrett (Polyamory): At present those in a ‘trio’ (a three-way relationship) are denied marriage equality, and as a result face a considerable amount of legal discrimination.

As someone living with his two boyfriends in a stable long-term relationship, I would like to know what your stance is on polyamory rights. Is there room for Green support on group civil partnerships?

At present, we do not have a policy on civil partnerships involving more than two people. We are, uniquely in this country, a party whose policies are developed and voted for by our members. We have led the way on many issues related to the liberalisation of legal status in adult consenting relationships, and we are open to further conversation and consultation.

Q – Keith Thomson (LGBT Rights Envoy): The UK Government’s recently rejected calls to the create a special Foreign Office envoy to promote the rights of LGBTI people throughout the world. Would you, and your party, support the creation of a LGBTI rights envoy?

The Green Party is committed to promoting, upholding and protecting the rights of LGBTIQ people across the world. In the Commonwealth, we have promised to press all member states to grant accredited status to a Commonwealth LGBTIQ Association. We will also press all member states to end the criminalisation of homosexuality, and protect LGBTIQ citizens from discrimination and hate crime.

We are also committed to challenging criminalisation, discrimination and violence against LGBTIQ people in all other countries, and work in solidarity with all campaigners there.

At present, we don’t have a clear proposal for a single ‘envoy’ position to be created. We’re not against that in principle, but because the rights of LGBTIQ people are central to us as an organisation, we know that those rights will be central to any and all members of a Green administration.


Q – Nigel McCollum (Wasted votes): While many LGBTQ voters are realising that Green Party policies are the most progressive in terms of real and tangible equality, sadly the myth that a Green vote is a wasted vote lingers. How will you convince potential voters?

A – The First Past the Post system encourages tactical voting – and it’s on that the Tories, Labour, and in recent years the Lib Dems have relied to win seats. But as 2010 showed, voting simply to keep another party out – as many Lib Dem voters did to stop the Tories – is certainly not guaranteed to deliver the result you want. And it has given us the kind of politics we have now, in which the business-as-usual parties chase the swing voters in swing seats, focusing their policies, rhetoric and attention on those at the expense of the rest of the country and their views.

If voters want a different sort of politics, it is within their hands to deliver that. By voting for what they believe in, by looking at their local election race, the candidates, their policies and parties and seeing which best represents them, then we could see a peaceful political revolution – a survey late last year which asked voters who they would vote for if they thought the party could win, 26% said Green.

We’re confident of electing a strong group of Green MPs in the next parliament and every vote across the country will strengthen their position. And we’ll work with other anti-austerity, human rights-protecting MPs in the parliament. We would not support a Tory government in any way. But we are prepared to work on a case-by-case basis with the Labour Party. Our presence – and your vote – would move politics in the direction of our policies and values.


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 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 – Under the Coalition, almost no progress was made on this issue, and the Green Party stands firmly and squarely to end all inequality in pension inheritance for same-sex marriage partners and same-sex civil partners.

There is no excuse for same sex partners to have fewer rights than heterosexual partners when it comes to pensions, inheritance, or anything else.

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 – Reparative therapy is both unacceptable and damaging. The Green Party believes that attempts to enforce heterosexuality, whether by oppressive rules, or by forcing individuals into so-called ‘therapies’ which attempt to eradicate parts of their personality, are as much a violation of human rights as racism and sexism, and must be challenged with equal determination.


Q – Niall Murray (Blood ban): Hi Natalie, monogamous Gay and Bisexual men are being discriminated against in the National Health Service. What is your stance on the 12-month blood ban on Men Who Have Sex With Men (MSM)?

A – We will reduce the 12-month deferral period, based on individual risk assessment where the donor is identified not to be at risk of passing infections into the blood supply.


Q – Michelle Reece (Saudi Arabia and the US): You talk a lot about LGBT rights in Saudi Arabia, but with the ‘bathroom bills’ being passed in America, how can you change the attitudes of a strict Muslim country when you can’t even challenge the anti-transgender campaign going through in America?

A – The anti-transgender campaign in the US is very worrying, and we utterly oppose it.

Our elected representatives, from MEPs to local councillors, and local campaigners, will keep highlighting and speaking out against persecution of and discrimination against LGBTIQ people wherever they occur in the world, and keep up the pressure for improvements in rights and protections at all levels.


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

A – Much more can be done. It is simply unacceptable for any person or group of people, wherever they are in the world, to systematically be denied human rights, and we cannot simply stand by and let it happen.

That’s why we will press all Commonwealth member states to grant accredited status to a Commonwealth LGBTIQ Association, press all member states to end the criminalisation of homosexuality, and protect LGBTIQ citizens from discrimination and hate crime.


Q – Jake Furby (Hate crimes): I would like to know how you will help people victims of hate crime. 1 in 6 LGBT people are victims of hate crime. I also wonder if you would reverse the cuts to LGBT services.

A – In terms of hate crime, the Green Party is clear: we will combat all homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying with uniform legislation against all forms of hate crime.

We would also work to prevent such crimes through education. The Green Party would require every school to have an anti-bullying campaign that explicitly combats homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying and would ensure all schools provide sex and relationship education from primary school level onwards, which will be age appropriate and LGBTIQ-inclusive.

We know that public services must provide better for LGBTIQ people. We would end cuts to the NHS and ensure adequate funding to increase the provision of gender identity clinics across the country.


Q – Julia G (Gay parenting support): A YouGov poll for PinkNews recently found that only 52% of people in the UK support gay men becoming parents using surrogacy or adoption – what will you do to help people be more supportive of gay parenting, especially given the shortage of adoptive parents.

A – We fully support the right of gay men to be parents, and so we will work to safeguard and promote their rights.

We will also be ensuring children and young people are educated sensibly about relationships, so that they do not grow up regarding LGBTIQ people as unusual or in some way inappropriate for adopting children.


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

A – We certainly do agree, and we have the track-record to prove it. When she put forward the Bill on Sexual and Relationship Education to make PSHE lessons compulsory, Caroline Lucas said: ‘The importance of ensuring every child has access to education around sex, health and relationships can barely be understated. We know that parents across the country support this move, and we also know that such education has significant knock on benefits both on academic attainment and future employability.”



Q – Mariah Hickman (Gender neutral toilets): Why do you think the response to the Green Party’s position on gender neutral toilets was so hostile, with many tabloids using it as an example of the party’s ‘lunacy’?

A – I think it reflects the idea in certain sections of the media that anything with which they are not familiar is ‘dangerous ground’.

There’s a lack of understanding among some parts of society about transgender people and the consistent misrepresentation of those people in the media is a large factor within that.

We in the Green Party know how important it is to help reduce the challenges people face, and that’s why we are dedicated to – and proud of – representing people’s rights to a decent, safe, comfortable life, and to be protected from discrimination and bullying.


Q – June from Bedford (Science): How can the Green party pitch itself as a serious mainstream party when it refuses to apologise for endorsing the destruction and vandalism of scientific experiments in ‘Take the Flour Back’?


The party leadership and Jenny Jones have never apologised for throwing their weight behind a movement to trash scientific trials which could have help to feed the third world. Why does the Green Party encourage factions within it that are so rabidly and dangerously anti-science?

A – The Green Party is committed to evidence-based policy making, and this is evident in our stance on a wide range of issues, from currently illegal drugs, to  climate change, medical treatments and blood donation. But many questions, as with GM crops, are not purely scientific, but also take in economic, social and cultural issues, as well as understanding of unacceptable risks.

My first degree is in agricultural science. GM is the technology of large-scale, corporate dominated industrial agriculture, which is causing huge environmental damage. And there are legitimate concerns about the release of GM plants into the environment – an irreversible step.

Q – 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 – The Green Party was the first political party in the UK to support gay marriage.

We condemn any and all attempts to intimidate members of the clergy who simply wish to follow the law and treat LGBTIQ people as they would anybody else in the country, and we stand in support of anyone who wishes to perform same-sex weddings.


Q – Christie Elan-Cane (Gender X passports): What, if anything, would you do in order to rectify the situation for non-gendered and bi-gendered people in the UK who were desperately hoping the coalition government would follow the lead taken by governing authorities of Australia and New Zealand and permit the issuance of non gender-specific ‘X’ Passports to those who require them, and were very badly let down by your government in its first term of office as proposals in favour of ‘X’ Passports and the fundamental needs of those who require ‘X’ Passports were ignored?

Are you prepared to personally look towards addressing our situation, starting with reversal of the decision to reject provision of ‘X’ Passports?

A – As Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, Caroline Lucas was a signatory to the Early Day Motion last year which called for full legal recognition of those who do not associate with a particular gender, including the introduction of non gender-specific passports, and we continue to stand for their introduction.

At our most recent conference in March, a motion was put forward to make this an official party policy, and we are working on this now to ensure that the views of intersex people are taken more fully into account.

PinkNews election coverage is generously supported by KPMG.
Q&A: Natalie Bennett on polyamory, Gender X passports and ‘gay cure’ therapy