Angela Eagle on LGBT History Month
“As the first out UK government minister, I’m proud to celebrate LGBT History Month. It’s an important time for highlighting how far we’ve come in the fight for equality and acceptance, but pointing out that we’ve still got a lot to fight for.
We can celebrate the fantastic progress we have made establishing legal equality in our country thanks to the work of the last Labour Government and the wider Labour movement. The film ‘Pride’ shows how the group ‘Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners’ built solidarity between the striking miners and the LGBT community during a time when both groups were being oppressed under Thatcher’s government.
Lesbians and Gays Support The Miners at Pride, 1985. Image: LGSM2014
This led directly to the adoption of LGBT equality policies at the Labour Party Conference in 1988. When the Labour Government put these issues on the political agenda in ‘97, we faced fierce opposition and even ridicule from the Tories and their cheerleaders in the press.
Equal marriage would not have become law without Labour MP’s votes as half of the Conservative MPs voted against it.
Labour ended the ban on LGBT people serving in the military, equalised the age of consent, equalised adoption rights, included homophobia in the definition of hate crimes, introduced civil partnerships and abolished the heated and discriminatory Section 28 at the third attempt after the House of Lords had blocked it time and again. Both David Cameron and Theresa May voted to keep it. Equal marriage would not have become law without Labour MP’s votes as half of the Conservative MPs voted against it.
Theresa May in the Leeds University Student Union newspaper, 2001
Progress has been made, but we have to remember that things can go backwards if we are not vigilant. This year is the 30th anniversary of Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, a piece of blatant discrimination enacted and defended by the Tories.
Section 28 made it illegal for local authorities to “intentionally promote homosexuality” or “promote the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.” This left LGBT people with no protection at school and gave a green light to bullies.
The policy left every single LGBT person feeling like they were a second-class citizen and we are still suffering from its baleful nasty effects. Stonewall’s 2017 School Report shows that over half LGBT pupils experience bullying and 6% receive death threats.
While we are now equal in law, Labour must ensure that we make that equality a reality for every single LGBT person. This is now especially true for trans people who are currently suffering prejudice, ridicule and sometimes even violence on a huge scale.
Labour will campaign internationally to support the rights of LGBT people. Homosexuality is still illegal in more than 70 countries and is punishable by death in ten. We cannot rest until we have helped to eliminate discrimination worldwide.”
Angela Eagle, MP for Wallasey