Editorial: 10 things that Prime Minister Theresa May must do on LGBT rights

As Theresa May prepares to take office as Prime Minister, we urge her to commit to ten things on LGBT rights.

David Cameron will go down in history as the first Conservative party leader to bring reform on LGBT rights, and will leave a positive legacy through the introduction of same-sex marriage – which in no small part came about thanks to the efforts of Mrs May alongside Liberal Democrat minister Lynne Featherstone.

As Mrs May looks set to take office later this week, she must commit to further progress on LGBT rights.

1. Defend the right to same-sex marriage UK-wide

David Cameron made history with the passage of same-sex marriage in England and Wales, while Alex Salmond helped enact marriage legislation in Scotland.

As Conservative leader, Theresa May must defend her record on this issue, and resist any pressure to water down equal marriage legislation in any way.

Equally, she must commit, like David Cameron, to push the government in Northern Ireland to consider the case for equal marriage there too.

2. Keep commitment to human rights

Many LGBT rights in the UK including the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the lifting of the ban on gay people serving in the military and the equalisation of the age of consent emanate from the judgements European Court of Human Rights.

Being part of the ECHR not only ensures rights in this country; it ensures a standard of human rights across Europe by showing that the issue is not up for debate.

Earlier this year, Theresa May made the case for the UK to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights – but during her leadership campaign she explicitly ruled this out, conceding that there was no appetite for reform.

We urge her to abide by her clear promise to her party and the electorate, and to ensure that the UK remains a signatory of the ECHR.

3. Support LGBT people around the world

Over recent years, the government has committed to fight for LGBT rights both at home and overseas.

More recently, the government has funded overseas programmes to support LGBT people and activists through the Department of International Development (DFID) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). All candidates to succeed David Cameron must commit to continuing this important aid. They should also commit to provide a safe haven to LGBT people escaping persecution overseas.

Equally, the Prime Minister has described himself as the UK’s LGBT envoy, raising LGBT rights causes with leaders around the world from Vladimir Putin to Barack Obama.

Mrs May must continue, where necessary, to raise LGBT rights with their fellow world leaders.

4. Engage with the LGBT community

David Cameron and the staff at Downing Street have made a special effort to engage with the LGBT community.

The PM has regularly contributed to PinkNews, keeping our readers updated with the progress towards same-sex marriage, and has on a number of occasions answered questions submitted by PinkNews readers.

As Prime Minister, David Cameron has hosted LGBT receptions and summits as well as regularly filming video messages for important occasions within the LGBT calendar including Pride and World AIDS day.

It is important that as his his successor, Theresa May continues this engagement with the wider LGBT community.

5. Continue to reform the Gender Recognition Act

Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, has committed the government to modernising 2004’s Gender Recognition Act, following a transgender review conducted by Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee.

Transgender people are demanding changes to the Gender Recognition Act, to improve streamline the process and also recognise non-binary people. They also need reform to health care provisions among other important changes.

The current government has commited to working on how to implement the changes to transgender provisions, and it is important that this does not fall by the wayside while attention shifts to Brexit.

6. Retain a Cabinet Minister for Equalities

During David Cameron’s time as Prime Minister, we have seen the benefit of a high-ranking cabinet minister with responsibly for equalities issues.

Theresa May, as Home Secretary and Minister for Equalities, helped ensure that same-sex marriage made it onto the government agenda.

Her successor, Maria Miller, ensured that it passed in Parliament.

In turn, her successor Sajid Javid brought in the process to allow civil partnerships to be converted to marriages.

His successor, Nicky Morgan, has used her role as Education Secretary to focus attention on the issue of homophobic and transphobic bullying.

As a former equalities minister herself, it is imperative that the next Prime Minister recognises the worth of the role and continues to appoint a cabinet-ranking Minister for Equalities.

7. Tackle hate crimes and homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying

Homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools, the workplace and wider communities is a menace and it must be stamped out.

As Prime Minister, Theresa May must continue to condemn this as strongly as David Cameron has done, and commit to continue to fund schemes to make our society a more equal and inclusive place to live, work and study in.

We would further welcome commitments for candidates to commit to all children, whatever their school, to be offered inclusive sex and relationship education that recognises that modern families come in all shapes and sizes.

8. Continue existing reviews on LGBT policies

The government and official bodies are currently reviewing the provision of PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), blood donation rules for gay and bisexual men, and the possibility of pardons for historic gay sex convictions. These reviews should and must continue.

As Home Secretary, Theresa May carried out a review of the treatment of LGBT refugees and asylum seekers – in which the government committed to further monitoring and periodic review of the issue. As rights groups report that the system is failing LGBT people, we would urge Mrs May to stand by her commitment and to again review the issue.

In addition, there are many calls for a review into pension provisions for those in a same-sex relationship, as some private schemes discriminate against gay and bisexual couples.

9. End ‘gay cure’ therapies

David Cameron told PinkNews that “treating lesbian, gay and bisexual people as having an illness to be ‘cured’ is profoundly wrong.” He added that although the government was not planning to make them illegal, “if we need to go further to protect people from harm, we will.”

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan told the audience at the PinkNews Awards: “Gay cure therapies have no place in our country and we must stamp them out.”

PinkNews was alarmed to learn that some of the former leadership candidates had links to groups that support gay cure therapies. As leader, Theresa May should condemn gay cure therapies and pledge not to work with any organisation that advocates or supports these practices.

10. Reject calls to weaken anti-discrimination laws

There have been proposals from the Democratic Unionist and UK Independence Parties to introduce ‘conscience’ provisions into equalities law, which would create exemptions from LGBT anti-discrimination protections on the grounds of religious belief.

The next Prime Minister must make a clear commitment not to take regressive action, which would be damaging to the UK as it has been in certain US states.

It took decades to reach consensus on our anti-discrimination laws, which are some of the strongest in the world, and Mrs May must stand by the progress we have made.