Liz Truss urged ‘do better’ on LGBT+ rights by Trades Union Congress and its 5 million members

Liz Truss

The UK’s top trade unions are calling on Liz Truss for an “urgent reset” in her approach to LGBT+ rights after the government’s decision to disband its LGBT Advisory Panel.

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) and general secretaries of more than 39 British trade unions, who collectively represent more than five million union members, forcefully condemned Truss’ equalities office for its “inaction” on tackling discrimination and harassment faced by LGBT+ people.

In an open letter on Monday (19 July), the unions urge the equalities minister to back an inclusive culture that “supports LGBT+ people’s safety and dignity”, saying: “The UK can do better.”

Their calls for action follow the collapse of the government’s LGBT Advisory Panel after several members resigned accusing the Conservatives of creating a “hostile environment” for LGBT+ people in the UK.

“We call for the recruitment of a new LGBT Advisory Panel, with a clear mandate and trade union representation,” reads the letter, shared with i.

“We add our voices to those calling for an immediate ban on all forms of conversion therapy, and for a simplified, free, statutory gender-recognition process, based on self-declaration.

“We look to the Government not only to promote equality and eliminate discrimination against LGBT+ people but also to take a principled lead in building an inclusive culture in words and deeds that supports LGBT+ people’s safety, dignity and equality so that LGBT+ people can thrive and live authentically.

“The UK can do better. Let’s lead the world in LGBT+ equality once again.”

Truss’ repeated attacks have ‘dismayed’ many in the LGBT+ community

Truss told MPs that the LGBT Advisory Panel was disbanded after a “fundamental disagreement” over members’ support for gender recognition law reforms.

The Conservatives have now scrapped all plans to reform the “dehumanising” gender recognition process, despite polling persistently proving that the majority of the British public supports it.

Earlier this year Truss indicated the government may be dropping its long-promised LGBT Action Plan, saying that delivering on the progressive pledges laid out in 2018 was no longer a “priority”. She’s also urged all government departments to pull out of a major Stonewall employment scheme promoting LGBT+ inclusion.

Truss drew further ire when the government’s Equality and Human Rights Commission controversially backed the appeal of Maya Forstater, a woman who tried to convince an employment tribunal that her anti-trans views should be a protected “philosophical belief”. A judge has since ruled that Forstater’s “gender critical” opinions are protected in law.

Union leaders, including Unite’s Len McCluskey and NEU’s Mary Bousted, told i these moves have “dismayed” many in the LGBT+ community and sent out a worrying message to wider society.

They shared findings that show nearly two in five LGBT+ people have faced homophobia in the workplace, highlighting the concern many feel about returning to this toxic working culture after COVID restrictions lift on Monday.

“The government’s botched back-to-work guidance is going to place many frontline workers in a very difficult and vulnerable position,” said TUC general secretary Frances O-Grady.

“Take the issue of face coverings. Staff will be asked to recommend customers wear masks in shops and on public transport – but will no longer have the law to back them up.

“For those who have experienced aggression and harassment from customers in the past – as many LGBT workers have – that is a really worrying prospect.”

An Equality Hub spokesperson said: “We have already engaged widely with businesses to understand the experiences of LGBT employees, meeting representatives from over 150 organisations, including SME leaders from diverse sectors, and will shortly announce how we will further tackle workplace discrimination.

“The government remains committed to ensuring every workplace is an inclusive space where everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential.”