Speaker John Bercow: LGBT rights ‘must trump’ religious freedom

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow has said that respect for LGBT people should be prioritised over ‘religious freedom’,  in a speech at the PinkNews summer reception in Parliament.

Speaker Bercow was hosting the PinkNews summer reception in Westminster in partnership with Zurich, which follows events in Cardiff, Edinburgh and Belfast.

Although the holder of the office of Speaker is required to be politically independent, Bercow has repeatedly spoken up in favour of LGBT equality during his nine years in the role.

Speaker John Bercow at the PinkNews reception (Paul Grace)

He made no exception at the July 4 PinkNews reception in Speaker’s House, giving a “most explicit and unequivocal statement of support” for LGBT rights and PinkNews.

In his speech, the Speaker spoke about attempts to use ‘religious freedom’ to justify anti-LGBT bigotry.

Bercow said: “In terms of trying to heal the wounds of the nation fractured on other fronts, surely we want to close down sources of division, of rancour and of bitterness, and find bases on which to unite.

“Gay rights, lesbian rights, bi rights and trans rights are not gay rights, lesbian rights, bi rights or trans rights, they are human rights, and that seems to me to be the inescapable conclusion of any serious consideration of these matters.”

He added: “I respect people’s rights to adhere to and profess their faith, but for me, where there is a clash between somebody’s adherence to faith on the one hand and the acknowledgement of and demonstration of respect for human rights, the latter has to trump the former.

“If there are people who take a different view, no doubt they will profess it, but that is my absolutely clear sense.

“The rights of LGBT people of this country and of such people around the world are human rights and need to be acknowledged as such.”

Speaker John Bercow at the PinkNews reception (Paul Grace)

Elsewhere in his speech, Bercow hit out at anti-transgender voices in the media, the week the government launched a much-criticised consultation on gender recognition rules.


Bercow also referred to Section 28, the defunct 1980s law banning the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools, as “the single most pernicious piece of legislation in the post-war period.”

The Speaker has hosted a large number of LGBT events in his nine years in the role, and serves as President of the Kaleidoscope Trust, which works across the globe to advance equality in countries where people face anti-LGBT discrimination.

The Speaker even included a rainbow flag in his official heraldic Coat of Arms to show his dedication to the cause.

PinkNews’ summer reception in Belfast last week was attended by all major Northern Irish party leaders, with DUP leader Arlene Foster making her first ever appearance at an LGBT event.

Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones spoke at the Cardiff reception, while the summer reception in Edinburgh on June 20 was addressed by Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson and Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard.