Conservative leadership candidates lay out LGBT rights plans

10 Conservative MPs are battling to become the next leader of the Conservative Party, and therefore Britain’s new prime minister.

This is what each PM hopeful has to say about their record, and what they plan to do to benefit the LGBT+ community, according to national organisation LGBT Conservatives.

Chairman of LGBT Conservatives Colm Howard-Lloyd said: “We know that our members are supporting a wide range of candidates for the leadership.

“One thing they agree on is the important role the Conservative Party must play in furthering equality and, as we’ve demonstrated previously that must be led from the top.”

Esther McVey explains why she voted against gay marriage, and why she thinks “most people have kissed a Tory – and probably rather liked it,” Boris Johnson says LGBT+ equality is not a “job done,” and Jeremy Hunt said a government under him would have “equality at its heart.”

The candidates are listed in no particular order.

Britain’s Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt (DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty)

Jeremy Hunt

“As a Conservative I believe that everyone should be free to be who they are and love who they want, and my track record shows that. I’m proud to have been able to vote for equal marriage and service in the Cabinet that brought this reform into law.

“Most recently in the Foreign Office, where we have difficult interactions with countries that are not as far along the path to equality as we are, I have stood up for gay rights.  I condemned the Government of Brunei’s introduction of the death penalty for gay sex and I am pleased to have secured some progress in that country. The truth is we still have further to go, both in the UK and in the rest of the world, but I hope I have demonstrated that a government led by me would have equality at its heart.”

Boris Johnson. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson

“My guiding principle is this: who you love, who you are, how you choose to live should not and will not stand in your way. Love is love and it is as simple as that.

“I am immensely proud to live in a country that is one of the most progressive and liberal when it comes to LGBT+ equality. Across all four parts of this nation, people should be able to live their lives as they choose and express their love in the way they want.

“Our great country has been at the forefront of the drive towards equality – and as Conservatives we can be proud of the part we have played in that. Not only the landmark passing of equal marriage but, just as important, correcting the wrongs of the past.

“As Mayor of London I used the tools of my office to champion the LGBT+ community, supporting the annual Pride celebration (pink Stetson and all), backing the successful campaign for the Royal Vauxhall Tavern to get listed status and banning anti-gay adverts on the Tube.

“One of my proudest achievements is that in 2010 I was one of the first senior Conservatives to back equal marriage and I was a member of ‘Freedom to Marry’ which called on my colleagues to get behind it. It was the right thing to do and something I passionately believed in.

“As Foreign Secretary, I made sure that our embassies around the world were free to fly the rainbow flag where they previously hadn’t been. I had frank conversations with Commonwealth leaders about the moral (as well as economic) necessity of LGBT+ equality. Freedom to love whom you want is a vital component of any democracy which is why I made the point of hosting the brave campaigners for LGBT+ rights in Russia, ahead of the last World Cup.

“If I am lucky enough to be elected Conservative leader, I pledge that my administration will not consider this issue as ‘job done’.

“I will continue to champion LGBT+ equality, get tough on hate crime and ensure that we break down barriers to a fairer society.

“We must do more to ensure that trans rights are protected and those who identify as trans or intersex are able to live their lives with dignity.

“In our schools we must ensure that every young person feels safe and we should not allow the authority of teachers to be undermined by parents who unreasonably take their children out of school.

“Our fantastic NHS must provide for all, including all of the LGBT+ community, and we must call on business to ensure that no one is discriminated against for their sexuality or gender.

“We have already made so much progress as a Conservative government in championing equality and LGBT+ rights, but we must continue to still reform our society step by step, bringing people together while celebrating how we are all different.

“I hope to work closely with LGBT+ Conservatives, should I be elected leader, and will continue to champion a Government which believes in equality, fairness and freedom to love for all.”

Sajid Javid at the PinkNews Awards 2018 (Paul Grace)

Sajid Javid

“We are incredibly fortunate to live in such a diverse and tolerant country and this Government has a proud record of supporting and protecting LGBT+ people.

“It is clear to me that LGBT+ Conservatives play a crucial role in our party and this will remain the case if I become Prime Minister. The LGBT+ [which I use to mean anyone who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex or from another minority gender identity or sexual orientation] membership of our party must always be front and centre and they must have their voices heard.

“We have made great strides in advancing equality for LGBT+ people: from changing the law so that same-sex couples could get married – a measure I supported in a free vote – to pardoning gay men for appalling historic convictions for consensual gay sex. Our party has also seen the first out Member of Parliament and the first out female Cabinet Minister.

“But as we have seen just this last week in the horrific attack on a lesbian couple on a London bus, there is much further to go. I am clear that we must continue to push for LGBT+ rights to remain at the top of our party’s agenda. My own story is one of overcoming barriers and I am deeply committed to ensuring that everyone can advance in this country no matter their class, race or ethnic identity, gender identity, sexual orientation or gender.

“With that in mind, I have been developing a seven point plan to ensure that advancing and protecting the rights of LGBT+ people remains at the heart of our programme for government.”

7 point plan for LGBT+ people:

  1. Review the requirement for gender markers in passports and whether or not we should introduce an ‘X’ so that non-binary transgender people can be recognised.
  2. Work with transgender people to build their confidence and resilience to better support them into finding work.
  3. Working with the LGBT+ community to develop an extensive education campaign to ensure people are informed about their rights with regards to hate crime both on and offline.
  4. Work with the Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs to end discrimination against men who have sex with men so they can more easily participate in the generous act of blood donation.
  5. Continue to fight to protect the human rights of LGBT+ people across the world through Foreign Office and International Development efforts.
  6. Ensure that Relationships and Sex Education lessons, which support young people to be happy and healthy and to understand diversity and tolerance, are protected and maintained.
  7. Work to increase LGBT+ visibility in public life by ensuring the Conservative party reaches out to people from the LGBT+ community and encourages them to stand as candidates.

“I would gratefully receive any opportunity to discuss my plans for the LGBT+ community with your membership and stand by to commit to any engagement work you would find constructive.”

Esther McVey smiling as she walks in 10 Downing Street

Esther McVey arrives at 10 Downing Street. (Leon Neal/Getty)

Esther McVey

“As members of the Conservative Party, we all share the privilege of defending timeless conservative values: freedom of the individual, freedom of expression and freedom to choose, balanced with responsibility and tolerance. We are a broad church of views – a Party that welcomes but does not pry – and we are strong as a group because we come together as respected, powerful individuals driven by a right to know who we are and pursue our lives as a force for good.

“As Party members, we campaign together, we form some of our most significant relationships together and we are there for each other. And we are not all the same. As a Party which doesn’t believe in lecturing people on how they live their lives, we are at our best when we are a live and let live Party.

“This is what I like most about the LGBT+ Conservatives. You carry the torch for that tradition in our Party.  You recognise that brilliance comes in difference. It’s your real strength and what makes you such an amazing campaigning force. Candidates from across the country have benefitted from your boots on the ground, which is so fundamental to winning elections. But it’s a two-way process, and sometimes our Party machine isn’t good enough at listening.

“That is why I want to bring our Party closer to you. I believe in empowering our activists and our Associations, as without them we will not be able to protect our country from the most destructive socialist government in our history. We need to shift power away from the centre and give it back to the Associations, particularly in candidate selections. They know their area better than CCHQ and should be able to pick the right candidate for them without interference.

“I also want our members to contribute more to policy making by sharing their ideas. Through Blue Collar Conservatism, I have been hearing some fantastic ideas which will make a genuine contribution to how our Party restores trust. I also want to get members speaking again at conference. It is their event and we will all benefit if it is fizzing with ideas. People are more likely to come out campaigning in all weathers if they know they are valued.

“This my message to LGBT+ Conservatives.  As a group you make such a contribution and I pledge to you that if I am elected there will always be an open door, both as Conservatives and as the voice of the LGBT+ community within our Party. I will stand with you on fighting discrimination and creating a society where everyone can flourish by being who they are.

“Creating that society is important. Everyone was shocked by the horrific attack on the young couple on the bus, who were left bloodied and bruised as a result of the senseless attack. It is unacceptable and should not be happening. I have called for the most significant investment in police of any candidate in this campaign with a fully funded £3 billion investment in police. More police on the streets will enable them to deter and investigate more crime. Some in our Party don’t like the idea of us being tough on law and order, but when we’ve seen these disgusting homophobic attacks we have a moral duty to be tough.

“When it comes to the inclusion of LGBT+ relationships within SRE teaching in schools, we have to be equally tough. LGBT+ relationships should be taught in schools alongside other relationships in age appropriate sex and relationship education. It’s that simple. Despite Twitter’s best efforts to suggest otherwise, I’ve never believed anything else.

“Of course, we continue to recognise that there has been a long standing right for parents to withdraw their children from SRE in schools and as a believer in parental responsibility not state control, I believe this should remain. A shift in the balance of power between parents and the state in bringing up children is a worrying trend and will ultimately not stop at the school gates. However, I don’t believe this opt out right should be for parents specifically excluding one element. If a parent doesn’t want their child to participate in SRE teaching then that is their right, but this absolutely shouldn’t just apply to LGBT+ relationships.

The aggressive protests outside of schools are wrong and have only added to the challenges of having a proper debate. School gates are not the appropriate place. Protest against the Council, or even the DfE, but not at children on their way to school for goodness’ sake.

“As someone who embraces LGBT+ you may wonder why I voted against gay marriage. As I made clear to David Cameron at the time, I believed that as MPs, in charge of the state laws, we should have changed state law and not got involved with religious law. We should have made Civil Partnerships the first marriage of the land and made civil partnerships equal for all. I believe in tolerance and choice too. We need to be tolerant of religious laws and beliefs. So Civil Partnerships would have been the marriage of the land and equal for everyone, allowing people to separately, and secondly, have a religious marriage if they chose to. This, to me, would have been the Conservative path: equality, choice and tolerance.

“I know we will agree more times than we disagree, but what I promise you is that open door and chance to shape policy. Whether that is on how we use our international position to support LGBT+ rights around the world, or fight homophobia here at home, a government led by me will listen.

“We must always be the live and let live Party. We are not all the same, and we are all shaped by our unique experiences, whatever they may be. Whether that’s starting life as a Barnardo’s child, as it was for me, or whatever your story has been. We are stronger for those personal experiences. Tories come in all shapes and sizes, from all different backgrounds and sexualities. That’s why I bet most people have kissed a Tory – and probably rather liked it.”

Mark Harper

“I am incredibly proud of the role that the Conservative and Unionist Party has played in recent years to end discrimination on the grounds of sexuality and gender identity, not just in the UK but overseas too. It is of great personal satisfaction to have been a minister in David Cameron’s government when equal marriage was legislated for, something I voted in favour of.

“Many people are sceptical about the positions that the Conservative and Unionist Party adopted on LGBT+ issues in previous decades. That is why it is important for us to do all we can to demonstrate through action that we are in a completely different place as a party, and LGBT+ Conservatives play a vital role in that effort. If elected as Leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister, I would continue to implement the measures outlined in the government’s LGBT+ Action Plan that was published in response to last year’s national survey of LGBT*+ people. This survey was a stark reminder that whilst great strides towards equality for LGBT+ people have been made, we still have a considerable way to go as a society.

“I was particularly struck to learn that a majority of respondents said that they had avoided holding hands with a same-sex partner in public. That is one of the reasons why I strongly support the recent decision to make age-appropriate relationships and sex education compulsory in schools. If we have fears over making school lessons LGBT+ inclusive then we will never live in a society where everybody is able to publicly show basic affection towards the person they love.

“I would also want to do more to tackle the issue of homelessness amongst LGBT people. The fact that such a disproportionately high percentage of homeless people are LGBT warrants a stronger set of solutions than those outlined in the Action Plan. I would make sure this issue is looked at thoroughly as part of the next Spending Review.

“The efforts to achieve LGBT equality must extend far further than the UK’s shores, though. One of my ten commitments as a candidate for Leader of the Conservative Party is to fight Britain’s corner on the world stage. I regard the promotion of our country’s values as a core component of that, which is why I would use all the international forums that the UK is a part of, such as the Commonwealth and the United Nations, to push other countries to make speedier progress on LGBT equality. It is a sorry state that same sex relations are illegal in 73 countries and the UK must use more of the great influence it has on the world stage to address that.”

Dominc Raab carrying a red ministerial box

Dominic Raab leaves Downing Street for Prime Minister’s questions on November 14, 2018. (Dan Kitwood/Getty)

Dominic Raab

“I want a fairer deal for Britain, to make sure that we are a county where every person is comfortable in their own skin, comfortable to be who they are and confident that other people and the State will respect that.

“I voted for people in same sex relationships to be able to marry, because I believe everyone should have the opportunity to have a long term, stable and loving relationship, recognised in law. It should never be for the State to discriminate between people purely based on their sexuality.

“I am proud that it was a Conservative Government that brought in that law, and that we have made Relationship and Sex education mandatory for all school aged children when politicians of all political hues had ducked the issue for almost two decades. Teaching children about respect for others is a crucial part of any education.”

“No one should face discrimination in Britain today. We have some of the best anti-discrimination laws in the world. But laws alone are not enough. I will challenge discrimination and a culture of intolerance wherever it occurs to make Britain a fairer place.”

Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom arrives for a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street on October 9, 2018 in London, England.

Andrea Leadsom arrives for a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street on October 9, 2018 in London, England. (Jack Taylor/Getty)

Andrea Leadsom

“I will always be proud of the role our party has played in promoting LGBT+ rights here in the UK, as well as around the world. Everyone should be free to love whoever they want, and feel safe
and confident in who they are.

“As Prime Minister, I would work hard to make sure this excellent work continues. I will give the Government Equalities Office greater influence and impact in Whitehall and beyond. Issues of equality must be at the forefront of policy planning and development, and GEO will play a greater part in that.

“I also recognise that the rights and identity of trans people is one of the defining issues of our time. I want our party to be at the forefront of progressive support for trans people and policy making that is inclusive towards them. If elected leader, I would arrange a series of roundtables – to include LGBT+ Conservative and other significant LGBT+ organisations – to discuss how the Conservatives can do more to protect and support trans people.

“Recent events here and around the world, where the freedom of LGBT+ individuals is denied, has shown us that there is much further to go in ensuring each and every one of us is treated equally and afforded the same opportunities.

“The UK needs to apply pressure on other countries where LGBT+ rights are not as advanced as our own – including within the Commonwealth.

“I am a proud supporter of equality. I want to ensure that individuals from minority groups not only feel comfortable in our society, but that they belong and are at home within our Party. We have made great progress in recent years in selecting and electing LGBT+ candidates at all levels of our Party and under my leadership I want to see this continue.

“Our Party has a strong and proud record on LGBT+ rights. The left like to think that they have a monopoly on the LGBT+ community therefore taking their support for granted, exploiting equality issues for political gain and failing to deliver. We should never let them win and should continue to demonstrate that the Conservative Party is an open, tolerant and welcoming place for anyone in the LGBT+ community.

“I pay tribute to the excellent work LGBT+ Conservatives has done over many years to help change attitudes within our Party, encourage new members to join and to support our candidates seeking election. As leader, I promise to help you continue this cause.”

Environment Secretary Michael Gove leaves Number 10 Downing Street on April 8, 2019 in London, England. (Jack Taylor/Getty)

Michael Gove

“As a nation we have made great strides in recent years to make this country a fairer and more equal place for LGBT+ people. When it comes to the legal framework protecting LGBT people we are quite rightly seen as a beacon to the rest of the world. For my part, I am proud to have voted in support of legislation supporting LGBT+ equality, even when I have been in a minority among Conservative MPs –  such my votes in favour of Equality Act protections for sexual orientation and Marriage Equality. However recent events have shown that we cannot rest on our laurels or take progress for granted.

“Work in the following areas of LGBT+ equality will be my priority as Prime Minister:


“The intimidating protests outside schools in Birmingham are unacceptable and must stop. I support the High Court injunction to stop them. While parents can and should have a right to withdraw their children from sex education, that does not apply to the wider curriculum. As Education Secretary, I introduced the mandatory teaching of British values, to make sure young people were taught about the importance of tolerance and respect for people who are different to them.

“I believe that teaching children that some people have two mums and two dads is an important part of preparing them for life in modern Britain, indeed many children in primary schools will have classmates with same-sex parents. While it should be for primary schools to decide how to introduce this teaching as part of the curriculum, I will be clear that teaching the topic is a Government expectation. In doing so we will send a clear message that any protests or disagreement should be directed at the Government not individual head teachers on the frontline.”


“Research from Stonewall has shown that trans people face levels of abuse and inequality that are shameful for all of us who believe in a fair and equal society. Their research shows 2 in 5 trans people had a hate crime committed against them, and 2 in 5 young trans people have attempted suicide.

“The current gender recognition process is based on the premise that being trans is a mental illness. As such it is overly burdensome and bureaucratic. I will take forward the Government’s work to improve the gender recognition process to make the transition processes for adults more fair and less stressful. I am committed to working with both trans groups and women’s charities to review current exemptions under the Equality Act, to ensure that we both tackle anti-trans prejudice and ensure that we maintain safe spaces for women – for instance in female only shelters. I will take forward plans to expand the Government’s ‘Tell Us Once’ to transgender people, so that they only have to update their name and gender across multiple departments once.”


“Last week’s attack of a lesbian couple on a London bus, shows the effects of a toxic combination of homophobia and misogyny. This type of hate crime has no place in our society. I believe that there is a pressing need to review hate crime laws, with a view to treating hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity as aggravated offences, the same as those based on race and faith. This change, along with a review of sentencing to ensure consistency, will ensure more LGBT+ people feel confident in reporting hate crimes.”


“Research from Stonewall has shown that homophobic bullying in schools has consistently fallen over the last decade. However, nearly half of lesbian, gay, bi and trans pupils still experience bullying.

“As Education Secretary I introduced what is now, a £3 million fund to tackle homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools. As Prime Minister I will continue this funding to ensure that schools and teachers receive the support and training they need to tackle bullying. I will also continue work with Ofsted to ensure that the approach schools take to tackling bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity is taken into account during inspections.

“We know that LGBT+ children are more likely than other children to be bullied online and affected by hate speech online. Action from online platforms has been too slow to tackle this abuse. As Prime Minister, I will call a summit with major online platforms to demand they take action to quickly, tackle homophobic and transphobic bullying and remove offensive content.”


“As much progress has been made at home, there is still more we must do to support LGBT+ people abroad and the global fight for equality.  There are still 70 countries around the world that criminalise homosexuality. As Prime Minister I will use my position to advocate for decriminalisation and protection of LGBT+ rights globally. I will also take forward work and funding to support LGBT groups around the world in those countries that do not respect LGBT+ rights. As we seek to negotiate new trade deals having left the EU, I will use the UK’s soft power to advance the case for equality, particularly across the Commonwealth.

“The UK also has a proud tradition of supporting those fleeing persecution in their home countries, but I am aware that the process for processing asylum claims from LGBT+ people is in need of reform. As Prime Minister, I will end detention of LGBT asylum seekers except for in exceptional circumstances and stop the use of detained or accelerated procedures which are not appropriate for the complexity of LGBT+ asylum claims.


“There has been a welcome increase in funding and support for mental health under this Government. My Government will continue this support, and in particular provide additional funding to make sure that all mental health practitioners have training and guidance in specific issues faced by LGBT+ people. Gay conversion therapy is medically unsound and dangerous. My Government will bring forward and implement proposals to end the practice of conversion therapy.

“PrEP has the potential to significantly reduce rates of HIV transmission. That’s why I want to see it rolled out on the NHS as soon as possible. As such, if the current trial continues to show positive results, my Government will not hesitate to provide funding to NHS England to make PrEP universally available on prescription.

“We also know that LGBT people are more likely to become homeless than the population at large. My Government will conduct more research into the instance of LGBT+ homelessness and use its findings to commission a review into what more can be done to tackle it.”


“Delivering these commitments will require funding. The £4.5 million LGBT+ implementation fund is guaranteed until 2020. My Government will commit to maintaining this fund in real terms up until the 2022 General Election.”

health secretary Matt Hancock, who pledged to ensure there is a "specific focus" on LGBT+ mental health as the UK marks Time to Talk Day

Health Secretary Matt Hancock arrives in Downing Street on December 20, 2018 in London, England. (Leon Neal/Getty)

Matt Hancock

“As we celebrate Pride month, with public buildings across the country proudly flying the rainbow flag, it might seem that LGBT+ rights are now secure. But we only need look at some recent events – from horrific homophobic assaults to anti-LGBT protests at schools- to see how much remains to be done.

“I’m proud to call myself an LGBT ally, and to have supported important advances under this government such as equal marriage and last year’s LGBT Action Plan. As Health Secretary I’ve been keen to ensure all patients feel comfortable accessing treatment, regardless of their sexuality or gender identity. We have appointed the first National Adviser for LGBT Health, and supported great initiatives like the Rainbow NHS Badge Project to promote a more inclusive environment.

“If I become Prime Minister, I want to continue moving forward with practical policies to tackle the remaining challenges LGBT people face, and to make this country an even more welcoming and inclusive place. Despite all the progress we’ve made, more than two thirds of same-sex couples still say they are too nervous to hold hands in public, and a similar proportion of trans people felt the need to hide their gender identity. We cannot say we have true equality until those everyday experiences improve, but that is the better world we should all be striving towards.”

Rory Stewart

“I absolutely defend the rights of everybody to identify as they wish – to love as they choose and to be what they are. As Prime Minister I would love, champion, and cherish Britain’s LGBT+ community – which brings so much to Britain and is a major source of our diversity and strength. We need to respect each others’ identities and we need to have pride in each other. My policies for the LGBT+ community will be listening and love.”