Pride and the cuts
A big challenge: where is the community?
Trade unions and community groups everywhere are campaigning against the devastating cuts in public services, with the accompanying job losses, and the threat posed to the NHS by government 'reforms'. Many sections of the community have mobilised strongly to resist with highly visible and innovative actions.
Where has the LGB&T community been in all of this? And which trade unions have made LGB&T issues a component of their campaigns?
LGB&T people know all too well the effect of invisibility. It's down to us, in the unions, to reverse this situation. Thousands of LGB&T trade unionists marched proudly with their LGB&T banners on the huge TUC demo (26 March) - so we have the people, we have the will: let's take the message out to our communities during the 2011 Pride season.
What the cuts mean for LGB&T people
Everyone working in or using public services is facing the impact of cuts, but LGB&T people - except of course for those rich enough not to worry - have our own particular concerns too.
- Community groups serving sections of the community such as young people, or providing services such as GALOP and Broken Rainbow do for policing and same sex domestic violence respectively, are facing a big loss of funding as local authority and other funders pull the plug on every 'non-essential' service;
- HIV services like THT have already been hit with big cuts in grants, reducing the service they can provide just at a time when there has been the biggest increase in recorded infections for years;
- The impact of the Tory 'reforms' on the health service are already being felt and in a number of areas gender reassignment surgery for trans people has been shut down;
- All this is happening at a time when workplace prejudice and harassment remains widespread, while outside work London and other cities have witnessed an actual increase in reported homophobic attacks.
Fighting back with Pride
The TUC has a new leaflet for distribution at Prides over the summer, arguing the case for LGB&T people to get involved and visible in the resistance to the cuts. Copies are available from the address at the end of the newsletter.
Local anti-cuts campaigns should be encouraged to establish links with LGB&T community groups in their area, if they haven't already done so.
The LGBT network in SERTUC has also given its backing to a new community-based campaign working under the title of Queers against the Cuts (QAC), which aims to have campaign materials available by the time of the TUC LGBT conference. The name is not to everyone's taste, but QAC offers a way to reach particularly to younger members of the community.
Watch out for the EDL!
A chaotic series of events developed in the spring over the calling of a Pride march in East London, following the appearance of homophobic stickers in the area. The concern was not that there should be an event in response to such activity, but that one of the organisers was identified as a supporter of the English Defence League (EDL), the far-right group organising against (in particular) Muslim communities. The TUC played its part in persuading Pride London to withdraw its backing, and the project was abandoned. It is now hoped that a different East End Pride will take place later in 2011 that has an inclusive approach. But the incident should act as a reminder of the importance of challenging racism and islamophobia and ensuring a fully inclusive approach to organising Pride activities - some LGB&T people may be naively open to EDL arguments about the risks of sharia law, while carefully concealing from sight what fascists really think about us all!
Law and advice
LGBT Equality at Work
The second edition of the TUC advice booklet for union reps and negotiators was published for IDAHO on 17 May. It is available for download free from the LGBT page in the equality section of the TUC website (www.tuc.org.uk) or direct from www.tuc.org.uk/equality/tuc-19413-f0.cfm.
The new booklet takes account of changes introduced in the Equality Act 2010, which for the first time puts LGB issues on the same standing as other equality laws. The previous exemptions, however, remain in place.
It also strengthens the advice previously given on monitoring sexual orientation, explains why monitoring of trans people on a similar basis is no longer recommended, and explains the importance of understanding that the constituent elements of the 'LGB&T' 'family' have distinct interests that need separate recognition.
From October 2010, all public bodies became liable to the new public sector equality duty, which for the first time extended to LGB people (trans people had previously been - partly - covered by the gender equality duty). The Duty requires organisations to support equality, eliminate discrimination and harassment, and promote good relations between the LGBT people and others. The potential benefits of this legislation are obvious, but it looks increasingly as if these 'general duties' will be the only concrete obligations, as the government has repeatedly modified the 'specific duties' that previously established concrete obligations designed to demonstrate that the objective was being pursued - such as monitoring.
Civil partnership and marriage
Late in 2010, Labour peer Lord Alli persuaded parliament to adopt a new clause (s.202) that allows civil partnership ceremonies to be conducted in those religious premises that are willing to do so. The Government Equalities Office (GEO) has been consulting over its implementation (closing 23 June).
The GEO consultation is narrowly confined to the mechanics of how this would work.
However, ministers have been talking about moving on from this to look at the whole issue of civil partnership and (civil) marriage, where the distinction - apart from the important ongoing issues of an unequal backing of survivor pensions (only to 1988), and the requirement on married trans people to divorce their spouse before they can obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate - is in name only. The TUC does yet have a position on this discussion - and there are many deeper issues at stake here - except for pressing for complete equality, so the TUC LGBT Committee will be undertaking a discussion of the issues involved, and LGBT members of unions might wish to consider how to approach this debate, if indeed it materialises.
An alliance of campaigners coordinated by the TUC, and involving the PFA and the LGBT Committee, and Schools Out, has maintained good relations with the GEO which organised a successful sports summit with the heads of six major UK sports bodies (including the FA), and which produced a new Sports Charter against homophobia which is open to everyone to support and can be found on the GEO website (www.geo.gsi.gov.uk).
The TUC hosted a photocall organised by campaigner Lindsay England on 'Football against Homophobia' day (19 February) attended, amongst others, by TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber and CWU Gen Sec Billy Hayes. Since then, there has been some progress in tackling this intractable problem, bedevilled by lack of will to do what is necessary to undermine some very deep-rooted prejudices. The involvement of government for the first time may act as leverage on the sports bodies to challenge these.
Faith and prejudice
The TUC has become a formal sponsor of the Cutting Edge Consortium, the alliance of organisations (both faith and secular) set up following the successful second Faith, Homophobia, Transphobia and Human Rights conference in 2009, to promote the challenge to faith-based homo- and transphobia. Several trade unionists have been elected trustees, with committee chair Maria Exall securing election as chair of the Consortium.
The CEC is now planning a follow-up conference in April 2012 and is looking for trade union support and engagement.
Visit the website at www.cuttingedgeconsortium.co.uk.
Continued progress abroad
Readers of this newsletter may be aware that the renewed attempt to introduce a bill that threatens the death penalty for same sex 'offences' was not debated in the Uganda Parliament, perhaps in response to enormous international protest and an enormous e-petition. However, the problem has not gone away, and the bill may well be brought back in the next session of the Parliament. Watch this space.
In keeping with the pledge in the coalition agreement, the UK government has sustained its commitment to promoting LGB&T equality abroad. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office stakeholder group set up under the previous government (of which the TUC and Unison are active members) continues to operate, and the UK government added a strong protest to the campaign against the proposed bill in Uganda.
The stakeholder group is looking at which can be done to encourage a change of policy, too, by commonwealth countries, in some of which prejudice and discrimination remain particularly strong.
Age UK policies and resources
The TUC has been in contact with Age UK to find out about their policies and practices regarding LGB&T elders - a subject of motions at recent TUC LGBT conferences.
Age UK have established some excellent good practice guides for professionals, information resources for older LGB&T people, and a growing number of services for the people themselves, delivered through partner organisations. The AgeUK group in Derby has taken the lead in this area. They have made a short documentary highlighting the issues, available at:
Hard copies of the DVD can be ordered from email@example.com.
PDFs of the national fact sheets can be downloaded from the Age UK website
Regional TUC LGBT groups might wish to organise a discussion with Age UK about the issue facing older LGB&T people in the area, and joint working.
HIV and the ILO
The TUC, with the active participation of LGBT Committee member Stewart Brown, played a full part in the preparation of the recent International Labour Organisation (ILO) Recommendation 200, on HIV/AIDS and the workplace. The recommendation is just that, and not mandatory on the UK government, but the government is obliged to lay before parliament its response. The TUC has been working in collaboration with the National AIDS Trust to encourage the government to revisit its current opt-out clauses, relating to service in the armed forces and some areas of health care. As the initial response was simply to restate these opt-outs, without having given any consideration to the carefully thought-out proposals in the ILO recommendation, the joint TUC/NAT reply has been to urge a re-think.
At a time when new HIV infections are showing significant annual increases, especially among gay men, active steps to address all the issues around the condition are even more necessary.
List of Pride events
11 June Oxford Pride
12 June Blackpool Pride
25 June Swansea Pride
9 July Lincoln Pride
8-11 July Bournemouth Pride
16 July Northern (Newcastle), Sheffield Prides
24 July Gloucester Pride
30 July Hull. Norwich, Nottingham Prides
31 July Torbay
6 August Liverpool Pride
7 August Leeds Pride
13 August Brighton Pride
14 August Wakefield Pride
20 August UK Black Pride (Birkbeck College, London)
27 August Cornwall (Truro), Manchester Prides
1-4 September BiCon 2011 (Leicester)
3 September Leicester, Reading Prides
4 September Barnsley, Cardiff, Essex (Chelmsford) Prides
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Issued: 13 June, 2011