Government’s ‘inadequate’ LGBT action plan under fire from Labour’s Dawn Butler and campaigners

Labour's Dawn Butler (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

The government has been accused of missing out a number of key issues from its landmark LGBT action plan.

Ahead of a Downing Street LGBT reception today, the government has set out an action plan making key commitments on LGBT rights, vowing to outlaw gay ‘cure’ therapy and tackle hate crimes and homophobic bullying.

However, many of the commitments in the report – such as new guidance on sex and relationship education and a consultation on gender recognition laws, simply repeat previously-stated commitments, while other issues were missing entirely.

There was no mention of any strategy to bring equal marriage to Northern Ireland, and much-demanded reforms for LGBT asylum seekers who fled homophobic persecution were also absent.

British Prime Minister Theresa May (Matt Dunham – WPA Pool/Getty)

Labour’s Shadow Equalities Secretary Dawn Butler has accused the government of half-baking plans for “legislative or non-legislative” bans on gay cure therapy, while other LGBT campaigners criticised the omissions from the Action Plan.

In a statement to PinkNews, Butler said: “Cruel and inhumane conversion therapies have been allowed to spread fear and hatred in our society for far too long. Unfortunately, this report does not commit to legislative change. We call on the Government to bring forward legislation which proposes nothing short of a full ban.

“With one in five LGBT+ people experiencing a hate crime in the last year, we are disappointed that the Government has not met Labour’s call to make these crimes an aggravated offence, the same as hate crimes based on race and faith.

“It’s exasperating to see the Government re-announce an announcement they made a year ago about consulting on the Gender Recognition Act. Labour is calling for the Act to be updated to ensure greater protections for trans people, and we urge Theresa May to finally work with us to make it law.

“We are glad that the Government is giving more attention to LGBT+ issues, especially in relation to health and education, but much of this plan is yet more reviews and consultations.

“After years of empty rhetoric and broken promises, we need to see concrete actions to show the Government is serious about tackling the inequalities faced by LGBT+ communities.”

Labour’s Dawn Butler (House of Commons)

LGBT Labour said: “The results of the government’s survey into the lives of LGBT people shows there is a long way to go before LGBT people in the UK can live free from discrimination.

“While we welcome the government’s U-turn on banning gay conversion therapy we are disappointed not to see more solid commitments behind today’s announcement. Only a full ban brought about in legislative change will bring this dangerous and harmful practice to an end.

“Access to healthcare, hate crime and bullying in schools are issues that ruin the lives of LGBT people in the UK every day and they need strong and decisive action from this government. If this government want to make real change they should reverse their cuts to the police force, fully fund PrEP and support equal marriage for LGBT people in Northern Ireland.”

Others questioned the lack of funding tied to the plan and criticised its omissions.

Alison Camps and Michael Salter-Church of Pride in London said: “What is missing from the report is an acknowledgement that we do not have equality across the whole of the UK. The Prime Minister and the Minister both mention the UK’s global leadership on LGBT+ rights.

“The truth of the matter is that other countries have overtaken us and there has been a failure to address fundamental issues in our country; the lack of equal marriage in Northern Ireland and cohesive relationship, gender and sex education being the most obvious. We call on the government to specifically address these points.

“Above all, what we see is that Pride matters as much as it ever has. This Saturday, the UK’s biggest Pride parade will take to the streets 46 years after it started. We will be there not just to celebrate how far we’ve come, but to march and protest for how much further we need to go in London and beyond.”

John O’Doherty Director of The Rainbow Project in Northern Ireland said: “While we welcome the publication of the action plan, we are unsure as to which of these actions will extend to Northern Ireland.

“The UK Government would like to reflect themselves internationally as leading on LGBT equality, however this does not reflect the experiences of LGBT people in Northern Ireland.

John O’Doherty (Philip Magowan/PressEye for PinkNews)

“While UK citizens are denied the right to marry in Northern Ireland and while more than half of LGBT young people don’t feel safe in schools – the UK Government is failing LGBT people.

“The legacy of criminalisation and discrimination perpetuated by UK governments over decades is still felt here in Northern Ireland and across the Common Wealth, and much more leadership is required from the UK Government here and across the world.”

LGBT campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “The LGBT Action Plan is a welcome start but it falls short on key issues.

“The biggest fail is the lack of any pledge to end the detention and deportation of LGBT+ refugees fleeing persecution in violently homophobic countries like Uganda, Iran, Russia, Egypt and Jamaica.

“Another big omission is the absence of any commitment to compensate gay and bisexual men who were convicted under past anti-gay laws. They suffered greatly; frequently being hit with huge fines. Some were jailed and beaten in prison.

“They often lost their job, income and home. Many suffered mental breakdowns. Their lives were wrecked for decades. The government’s unwillingness to include compensation in its Action Plan is a huge let down.

“The £4.5 million budget is derisory and insulting. It coincides with cuts in funding for sexual health clinics, which make it hard to get testing and treatment appointments. This is contributing to a rise in infections among gay – and straight – people.

“Banning gay conversion therapy is the right thing to do. It doesn’t work and it is deeply offensive to try to change a fundamental, natural and widespread human characteristic.”

Peter Tatchell (Oli Scarff/Getty)

Rev Steve Chalke of the Oasis Foundation also said the gay ‘cure’ ban may not go far enough.

He said: “Although there is much to be welcomed in this plan, it is in danger of missing the heart of the issue. The reality is, most churches do not run courses, programmes or structured education sessions that can be easily identified as ‘conversion therapy’.

“Instead, many churches typically engage in practices which individually and collectively undermine the mental wellbeing of LGBT people in churches.”

Not everyone criticised the government, however. The report has been broadly welcomed by campaigners from Stonewall and the LGBT Foundation.

Stonewall chief executive Ruth Hunt said: “We’re really pleased that the Government is listening [and] are investing funds in areas where LGBT people face some of the harsher inequalities, such as health care.”

Paul Martin of the LGBT Foundation said: “We worked closely with the Government Equalities Office to help develop the National LGBT Survey and we encouraged as many LGBT people as possible to

“We are delighted that the Government has listened. The proposed Action Plan outlines the concrete steps it will take to address some of the challenges still facing LGBT communities in this country.

“LGBT people continue to face significant health inequalities and we welcome the Government’s commitment to tackling these through the appointment of an LGBT Health Adviser.

“We hope that today’s plan is a clear statement of the Government’s commitment to work in partnership with the LGBT charity sector to achieve a fair and equal society where all lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people can achieve their full potential.”