Q&A: Green Party leader answers questions from PinkNews readers

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Green co-leader Jonathan Bartley has answered questions from PinkNews readers on a range of issues ahead of the General Election.

Bartley, the co-leader of the Green Party with Caroline Lucas, is the latest leader in our series of readers’ Q&As, after Plaid Cymru Leanne Wood and Prime Minister Theresa May.

Q – Clive, Southampton: What are your thoughts on reports of gay “concentration camps” in Chechnya?

A – The camps in Chechnya are a clear violation of human rights on the grounds of sexual orientation and must not be tolerated. We want to work with our European partners to place pressure on the Chechen and Russian authorities to uphold the rule of law, and promote equality, non-discrimination and universal human rights standards.

Q – Matt, Newcastle: A quarter of homeless young people are LGBT and the recent cuts to housing benefit for 18-21s will disproportionately affect LGBT people. What is your policy on this? What will you do to fight this particular benefit cut after the election?

A – Matt is completely right to point out that LGBT youths will be disproportionately affected by the Government cuts. We would reinstate housing benefit for under-21s to help take people off the streets. On top of that we would stop Local Authorities declaring young people “intentionally homeless”, and invest in community house-building projects to provide affordable, secure housing options for young people.

PinkNews readers’ Q&As:

Conservative leader Theresa May

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood

Green co-leader Jonathan Bartlett

Q – Adam, Guildford: As people, and in parliament, what would you say is the most effective way for the UK to help those who are not as fortunate as us to live in an LGBT-friendly country? What can we do to promote LGBT rights internationally?

A – We want to support LGBTIQA+ rights campaigns in countries around the world and support the work of the EU, and the UN in this. We also believe that when people are in danger because they are LGBTIQA+, the UK should be offering them safety here. Recently, the Global Greens formed a Global Greens LGBT+ Network, so that Green Parties internationally can support each other’s LGBT+ campaigns.

Q – Charlotte, Norwich: A trans person can wait for over a year for an initial NHS appointment, depending on where they live in the UK. What do you think should be done with regards to treatment of trans people on the NHS?

A – We’re clear on this, we should be removing the barriers to appropriate treatment, including putting an end to gatekeeping practices, and ensuring that waiting times meet the standard 18 week NHS requirement.

Q – Stephen, Belfast: Will you support efforts to make equal marriage a reality in Northern Ireland as it is now the only part of the UK without it?

A – I’m really proud that it was Steven Agnew MLA, the leader of our sister Green Party in Northern Ireland, who first introduced the issue of marriage equality to the Northern Irish Assembly in 2012. As long time champion of LGBTIQA+ rights the Green Party of England and Wales is proud to support these efforts to see equal marriage across the UK.

Q – Christie, Basingstoke: The UK’s Gender Recognition Act was considered one of the most advanced when it passed in 2004, 13 years on, it appears to many to be out of date, and lack the speedy processes offered in other countries such as Ireland. Will you support updating the Gender Recognition Act to improve the lives of the many trans PinkNews readers across the UK?

A – Definitely. The Green Party has a definitive policy on this, we should reform the Gender Recognition Act so that we can move to a system of self-declaration, that is inclusive of trans youth and those who identify as non-binary. We would also end the spousal veto.

Q – Kathleen, Newport: Given the significance of the European Convention on Human Rights in protecting LGBT people, will you support us remaining party to the treaty despite Brexit?

A – Losing the protection of the European Convention on Human Rights is one of many examples of how vulnerable the extreme Brexit the Government is pursuing will make us. It is because of things like this that the Green Party is calling for the public to have a final say on the deal the Government’s deal for Brexit, with the chance to stay in the EU if they don’t like it. Whatever happens, the Green Party will fight for the UK to remain part of the European Convention on Human Rights which is so important for the protection on LGBTIQA+ people’s rights.

Q – Mary, Shropshire: Do you support the extension of the provision of PrEP to gay men at disproportionate risk of contracting HIV to those served by NHS England, as well as to patients in Scotland and Wales?

A – We want to see PrEP provided by the NHS for everyone who needs it, and we promised to do just that in our LGBTIQA+ manifesto.

Q – Anthony, London: I would very much like to start a family with my fiancé and we are exploring the possibility of having a child via a surrogate mother with my sister as the egg donor. It will only be possible for us to have a baby this way via IVF. However, as we are a gay male couple, we are not entitled to any IVF support on the NHS, unlike straight or lesbian couples. As a doctor working in the NHS, I am well aware of the strain on our services but I also know that it is important to fairly allocate resources. I’m sure that you will agree that we have the same rights to start a family as any other loving couple, so should the NHS provide IVF to us as well as straight and lesbian couples?

A – We believe all families should be able to have children. We agree with you that IVF should be offered to Gay couples, as well as straight and lesbian couples. We wish you, and your family the very best of luck.

Q – (Many readers): Will you support compulsory LGBT-inclusive sex and relationship education in schools?

A – The last Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) guidance were produced 14 years ago – that is clearly out of date. On top of this, the lack of statutory status for Personal, Social, Health and Economic education (PSHE) has left 40% of schools deemed by Ofsted as ‘not yet good enough’ for PSHE. That’s why Caroline Lucas introduced a PSHE bill to Parliament, to make sure every child gets the best PSHE and SRE education possible. This includes the need for LGBTIQA+ children to get the information and support they need to help them deal with intimidation and isolation and for all children to receive lessons in how to respect all people.

Q – David, Hove: A variety of countries offer Gender X passports for people who do not conform to binary gender identities. Will you support efforts for the UK to follow New Zealand and Australia in introducing these types of passport options? Will you support the recommendations of the Women and Equalities Select Committee to make government forms and paperwork as gender neutral as possible?

A – We are in complete support of introducing an X gender marker in passports and are committed to campaigning to see this introduced in the UK. In with this we completely support the Women and Equalities Select Committee’s recommendation to make government forms and paperwork as gender neutral as possible.

Q – Elizabeth, London: Would you support efforts to make it illegal to offer services that claim to “cure” homosexuality to young people as is the case in several jurisdictions around the world?

A – Yes, we would outlaw dangerous conversion therapy techniques for all LGBTIQA+ people. They have been repeatedly been disproven, and the effect they have young people is truly saddening.

Q – Jack, London: Would you attend a local Pride event?

A – Absolutely – I went to Pride in London last year. It’s really important to celebrate diversity in our communities.

Q – Ben, London: Who would you say is your Gay Icon and why?

A – I’d actually like to pick someone from the wider LGBTIQA+ movement and that person is Aimee Challenor, the Greens LGBTIQA+ spokesperson. It’s no exaggeration to say that Aimee is a complete and utter inspiration. The work she has done to advance the rights of people who are trans in the face of so much prejudice is simply incredible.

PinkNews readers’ Q&As:

Conservative leader Theresa May

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron

Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood

Green co-leader Jonathan Bartlett