Sadiq Khan slams ‘abhorrent’ anti-LGBTQ+ views of US presidential hopefuls like Ron DeSantis

Mayor or London Sadiq Khan speaks at the PinkNews Westminster Pride Reception on 7 June 2023

Sadiq Khan has slammed US presidential hopefuls like Ron DeSantis for their “abhorrent views” towards the LGBTQ+ community.

The mayor of London launched a scathing attack on some of the politicians bidding for the Republican nomination in 2024 – a list that includes former president Donald Trump and Florida governor Ron DeSantis – during a speech at the PinkNews Westminster Pride Reception on Wednesday (7 June).

Stressing that there remain “big, big challenges” for the LGBTQ+ community in 2023, Khan criticised US politicians who use anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment as a campaigning strategy, while warning that the UK is not immune to similar ‘culture wars’ tactics.

“There are candidates running to be the president of the USA campaigning against [the] rights of the LGBTQ+ community, campaigning to be abhorrent and horrid to the trans community,” said Khan.

“But we mustn’t be lulled into a false sense of security [that] it’s not happening here. You’ve just got to pick up a paper, you’ve just got to watch TV, you’ve just got to go on social media to see some of the images that some politicians are putting out.”

Republican governor Ron DeSantis, who has launched his 2024 presidential campaign, wears a suit and tie as he speaks to someone off camera
Florida governor Ron DeSantis has signed a string of anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law. (Getty)

Addressing politicians and others gathered at the PinkNews Westminster Pride Reception, the Labour politician added: “Those of us who are politicians from all the parties represented here tonight can’t allow our parties to be sucked into these ‘culture wars’.

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“Some politicians will play on peoples’ fears to win votes. Other politicians have got to be addressing those fears and trying to win votes with arguments and elections.”

Florida governor Ron DeSantis signed a string of draconian anti-LGBTQ+ bills into Florida state law just days before announcing his bid to become president of the United States last month, while former president Donald Trump’s opened his own 2024 bid by promising to ban gender-affirming healthcare for trans youth.

Earlier this week, Republican presidential hopeful Nikki Haley made the bizarre claim that teen girls are contemplating suicide because trans girls share the same spaces as them. 

Khan also made reference in his speech to “people running to be president who have got some abhorrent views”, and drew attention to horrifying number of young trans people who attempt to take their own life.

“When I share with you that 1 out of 4 trans teenagers tries to kill themselves, that should sensitise us when it comes to talking about these sorts of issues,” he said.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan on stage during Pride in London 2019
Sadiq Khan said that trans people are people “demonised” in the UK as part of a “culture war”. (Mike Marsland/WireImage for Pride in London)

Khan’s damning assessment of the Republican presidential race comes just a month after the British government hosted high-profile and controversial meetings between Florida governor DeSantis and women and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch and foreign secretary James Cleverly.

His comments come as the Labour party faces increasing criticism from LGBTQ+ activists over its perceived backtracking on trans issues.

Labour leader Keir Starmer came under fire in April for saying “for 99.9 per cent of women, it’s completely biological“, when asked about female sex organs. 

Just days later, Labour was criticised by LGBTQ+ activists for saying it supported the Equality Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) proposed review of the UK’s Equality Act, which advised that changing the definition of “sex” to mean biological sex would “bring greater legal clarity”. 

Under Keir Starmer, the Labour party has been criticised for its perceived backtracking on trans issues. (Tejas Sandhu/Getty)

Trans activists warned that such a change in definition would have negative impacts on their lives, as well as affecting cis people.  

At Easter, Starmer courted more controversy for meeting a Manchester church leader who has anti-LGBTQ+ links, following a similar incident in 2021 when at Jesus House, in London.

Meanwhile, Labour has been criticised for failing to oppose the Conservative government’s use of a Section 35 order to block Scotland’s Gender Recognition (Reform) bill, which would make it easier for trans people to legally affirm their gender.

Wednesday’s PinkNews Westminster Pride Reception also saw speeches from shadow secretary of state for women and equalities, Anneliese Dodds, minister for equalities, Stuart Andrew, executive director of Kaleidoscope Trust, Lady Phyll Opoku-Gyimah, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, Daisy Cooper and co-leader of the Green Party, Carla Denyer.

The event recognises the immense contribution of the LGBTQ+ community in England in advance of the 2023 PinkNews Awards later in the year.