DUP members, such as Iris Robinson and Ian Paisley Junior, have also in recent years been associated with blatantly homophobic comments, but they are not alone. UUP leader, Tom Elliot also said during his election campaign that he would not attend Gay Pride events. While, Gerry Adams has refused to boycott the New York St Patrick’s Day Parade, which bans gay groups from participating in it. Also, the Alliance Party councillor, Seamus Close, opposed Lisburn council’s marriage room from being used for civil partnerships.
In Britain, ministers such as Theresa May and Chris Grayling have a clear homophobic record, while Cameron supports regressive measures such as a ban on same-sex kisses on television before the 9pm watershed. Funding has been slashed to vital LGBT organisations by this Con-DEM government. LGBT health support organisations in London have had 43 % of their funding cut. The same is true in other parts of Britain, such services are seen as easy targets for cuts and it is vital that if LGBT activists are to defend such services that we link up with the broader movements against the cuts, including the Stop the Cuts campaign launched by the Socialist Party and others.
No to Homophobia @ Work
Wells’ comments come at a time when important legal battles are taking place at the European Court of Human Rights. The so-called “Equality and Human Rights Commission” is proposing that “reasonable accommodation” is given to homophobes who do not wish to work with LGBT people, if they can argue that their prejudice is based on their religious beliefs. Such a measure would mean a clawing back of gains won by the LGBT community.
Here in the North, a recent report by the Rainbow Project has exposed how widespread homophobia is in the workplace. 25% of LGBT people working in the private sector hide their sexuality while at work. 40% of gay people working in the public sector have reported derogatory comments being made about the LGBT community by colleagues at work. This figure rises to 42.5% in the private sector.
At this years’ London Gay Pride, fire fighters refused to march with the London Fire Brigade and instead opted to march with their union banner (FBU). This was due to an introduction of cuts and a backtracking on commitments for LGBT rights in the workplace. This includes withdrawing from Stonewall’s Equality Index, a register of “gay friendly” employers. The firefighters see the connection between the economic cuts and the eroding of LGBT rights in the workplace in the UK. This is an important example of the role workers and trade unions can play in fighting for gay liberation and against the cuts.
An International Fightback!
This year’s Gay Pride takes place against a backdrop of important struggles being waged to defend and extend LGBT rights. In Uganda, bigoted politicians have been beaten. They wanted to introduce the death penalty to anyone convicted of having gay sex, and anyone who did not report this “homosexual activity” would have faced three years in prison.
In America, organised popular pressure on Barak Obama and Congress has forced the repeal of the notorious anti-gay military policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. Campaigns are currently been fought in several states in support of gay marriage.
The development of international “Slutwalks” is an important movement against sexual violence, and sexual repression, showing a willingness by young people to reclaim the streets. These protests erupted after a Canadian police officer told students that women could limit the chance of being raped if they “avoid dressing like sluts”. This brought thousands of women and men onto the street chanting “whatever we wear, wherever we go, yes means yes and no means no.”
Alongside these struggles, a growing international resistance by workers and young people is also taking place. Sparked by mass unemployment, poverty and oppression, revolutionary movements have swept away the dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt. In Europe, capitalist governments across the continent are trying to make workers and young people pay for the crisis of their system. Militant mass movements have already developed in Portugal, Spain and Greece to challenge these austere measures.
Pride is Protest!
The successful picket of the ‘reparative’ therapy conference shows that the LGBT community and those opposed to homophobia can be mobilised against such bigotry. The conference was hosted by the ex-Gay life coach, David Pickup, who claims that homosexual behaviour can be reverted through various therapies, all of which relies on homophobia to suggest a person can be normalised to a heterosexual lifestyle through therapeutic treatment. Only 15 people attended the conference, while over 60 came to show their opposition.
Ultimately, homophobia cannot be done away with on the basis of capitalism. As the current economic crisis has demonstrated, this system cannot provide jobs, homes and a decent standard of living for the majority. It creates the social conditions in which homophobic hatred and other prejudices can breed and are often fostered by the political elite. The struggle for real LGBT equality must be linked to the struggle for socialism – where the massive wealth that exists in society is used in a planned, democratic way to meet the needs of everyone, not just provide massive profit for a tiny elite.
The Socialist Party believe there is need to build a mass workers party that can fight on the issues effecting working class people and challenge bigotry. While LGBT people have made great advances towards equality, the fight for gay and transgender liberation is not finished. Pride began as a militant, political struggle against the criminalisation and marginalisation of gay people. This movement is necessary today to defend the rights previously won and continue the fight for liberation.