Queen’s Speech: My government will tackle discrimination based on sexual orientation

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The Queen’s Speech reaffirmed plans to tackle discrimination based on sexual orientation… as the Tories try to seal a deal with the DUP.

The UK government’s plans for the next session of Parliament were outlined today during the State Opening of Parliament.

Queen Elizabeth II read a largely neutered Queen’s Speech, which had many core Conservative policies ditched due to the minority Tory government’s precarious position in Parliament.

The Queen’s Speech did reaffirm a non-specific commitment to outlawing discrimination based on sexual orientation – which some may find ironic as the Conservative Party attempts to negotiate a confidence and supply deal with Northern Ireland’s anti-LGBT Democratic Unionist Party.
The Queen said: “My government will make further progress to tackle the gender pay gap and discrimination against people on the basis of their race, faith, gender, disability or sexual orientation.”

The speech detailed no specific plans for doing this.

It is believed to be the first time LGBT rights have been mentioned in a Queen’s Speech since 2003, when the speech committed to “increased equality and social justice by bringing forward legislation on the registration of civil partnerships between same sex couples”.

LGBT reforms are not always included in the Queen’s Speech, even if they are part of the government’s agenda.

Same-sex marriage was never mentioned in a Queen’s Speech despite passing through Parliament in 2013 as major legislation.

Turing’s Law, which extended pardons to men convicted of historical gay sex offences, was likewise not officially announced in the Queen’s Speech.

The 2017 speech failed to mention any plans to revamp gender recognition laws, despite a previous pledge from Prime Minister Theresa May.

Mrs May had told PinkNews prior to the election: “We are currently reviewing the Gender Recognition Act to take account of the issues that have been raised about how it operates.

“I know that for some trans people, the legal process to change their gender can be distressing, so changes do need to be made. We’re looking to move away from the current focus on medical checks towards a system that works better for trans people.”

This was not included in the Queen’s Speech.

Stonewall told PinkNews in a statement: “While today’s Queen’s Speech understandably focused heavily on Britain’s exit from the European Union, we were pleased to hear a clear acknowledgment that more must be done to tackle discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the next two years, alongside other forms of discrimination.

“But we are very concerned no mention was made of tackling discrimination based on gender identity.

“The last Conservative government were open in acknowledging that trans people in our society face endemic levels of discrimination and abuse.

“They also pledged to review the Gender Recognition Act to de-medicalise the process and remove the intrusive and humiliating barriers that trans people must currently face to have their identity recognised in law.

“We will be seeking urgent clarification from ministers that this remains the intention of this new government, and that they will make progress on the other priorities we set out in our manifesto for the general election.”

Stonewall added: “As we leave the EU, we need concrete guarantees that our human rights will be protected in the future; and it’s vital that any deal with the DUP to support the government’s programme does not water down its commitment to make progress on fighting discrimination and securing equality for all LGBT people.

“Today was a missed opportunity to make clearer and more specific commitments on LGBT rights. But the government has an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment in their actions.

“As a start, they can ensure we take a momentous step forward for all young LGBT people. Just before the election the government passed a law with cross-party support for all schools in England to provide relationships and sex education.

“That will transform the health and well-being of the next generation of LGBT people – but only if it is LGBT inclusive. We look forward to working with the government to make that happen.

“At a time when parliamentary energy will necessarily focus heavily on Brexit, Stonewall wants to reassure our supporters that we will work hard to ensure there is no backslide in LGBT equality. We want acceptance for all LGBT people, both here and abroad – no exceptions.