Speaker condemns ‘disgusting and egregious’ Commonwealth anti-gay laws

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The Speaker of the House of Commons has warned about the rise in homophobic violence – and promised a debate on global LGBT issues.

John Bercow, who has served as Commons Speaker since 2009, was addressing the annual gala dinner in aid of global LGBT rights charity the Kaleidoscope Trust, of which he serves as President.

Mr Bercow said: “There have been in recent times some good things and some bad things.

“If you look at those good things in 2015, surely you would have very near to the top of your list, that historic, unforgettable and enduring referendum in Ireland. For hundreds of thousands of people, it has been life-transforming.

“Similarly, in the US, the fact from 2016 transgender people are going to be able to be part of the military, is something in which we should rejoice.

“On trans issues, it’s not just in the US but in other places that maybe modest, maybe incremental, maybe not sufficient achievements, but achievements nontheless are being marked up.

“There are now going to be passports for transgender people; the distinct legal recognition of identity.”

He continued: “All of those are good things, but there are bad things as well. Lest for one moment we be tempted to fall into smugness, we know we can’t.

“Even in our own country, where in the space of fewer than 50 years we’ve gone from the criminalisation of a type of love to the legal facts of equality, last year there was an increase in homophobic attacks of more than one fifth.

“That just reminds you of how important it is to keep campaigning, to keep trying to change the culture, seeking to shift attitudes at every turn.

“You think of those bad things in those countries where we’ve struggled with the cause – you think of Iran. In the period from 1979 to today, 37 years, 4000 people have been executed for daring to be themselves.

“Within the Commonwealth, 40 of the 53 jurisdictions say to LGBT people, ‘it is illegal for you to be you, and we will use our power to dream up ever more disgusting and egregious methods for punishing you for daring to be you’.

“I’d like to think we wouldn’t need to have a Kaleidoscope Trust… but for so long as those pernicious attitudes, that discrimination, and those appalling abuses persist – not only in Africa but in parts of the United States and in Russia and even in some cases in the UK – the requirement for the existence of this great organisation will remain.”

The Speaker also hailed the work of Parliamentarians across parties, noting the achievements of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT rights.

Ahead of the group’s report on the abuse of LGBTI people around the world, due next month, Mr Bercow joked he could say with a “degree of confidence” that there would be a Commons debate on the issue.

He said: “Those matters, rest assured, will be debated in the proceedings in the House of Commons.

“We exist as a Parliament not just to stand up for majorities, but for minorities – and that’s incredibly important.”

Referencing his own record as an MP before becoming Speaker, he said: “I’m absolutely passionate about your cause – which has been my cause in the House of Commons for 16 years now.

“I was very late to it by comparison with many, I’ve always acknowledged that – but I bring to the cause of advocacy for LGBTI equality all the zeal of the convert.”

Attendees at the Gala Dinner included a number of politicians and famous faces.
Speaker condemns ‘disgusting and egregious’ Commonwealth anti-gay laws
Sir Ian McKellen and fellow Stonewall co-founder Lord Cashman took to the stage during the charity auction – with an offer of dinner with pair attracting more than £5000.

Find out more about the work of the Kaleidoscope Trust here.

PinkNews is proud to be the media partner for the Kaleidoscope Trust Gala Dinner 2016.