EU referendum: 'Why gay people should vote in exactly the same way as straight people'

This article first appeared in Attitude Issue 270. By Iain Dale I hope everyone reading this article realises that if we vote to leave the EU in the June 23rd referendum, anyone with a whiff of a limp wrist will be forced to have sex with the opposite sex, equal marriage will be revoked and bullying of LGBT schoolchildren will be encouraged. I jest of course, but to listen to some of the so-called ‘Project Fear’-inspired scare stories you could be forgiven for wondering. This vote is probably the most important one any of us will ever take part in, aside from a general election. It deserves to be taken seriously. At the time of writing, the whole debate has been skewed by ludicrous scare stories on both sides. Apparently leaving the EU would mean £9 billion less funding for the NHS. Remaining would mean we’d be potentially overrun by 75 million Turks. This sort of argument turns people off. What they want is proper debate and for people on both sides to set out a positive vision of what Britain would look like, and be like if we left or remained within the EU. Fat chance of that happening. Because I present a daily radio show (on LBC, since you ask) I am not declaring how I will vote in the referendum, but I do intend to spend the next few weeks pointing out the idiocy of ‘Project Fear’, and the scare stories put around by people who should know better in the gay community is as good a place to start as any. The EU has done many positive things, but for the LBGT sector it has done sweet fanny adams. It’s not the EU’s fault. Simply put, it has no jurisdiction over gay (or even anti-gay) policy. All gay legislation in this country has been passed by Labour or Coalition governments, without any input from Brussels whatsoever. Nigel Farage is no doubt very pleased by this. This is why various Eastern European countries are free to discriminate in any way they like. And believe me they do. Political commentator and Attitude columnist Iain Dale presents LBC's Drive, weekdays 4pm-7pm.     In the unlikely event that a future British government decided to scrap the Equal Marriage Act, there would be diddly squat that the EU could do about it. Ah, says ‘Project Fear’, we could go to the European Court of Human Rights and they could do something about it. Not true. They have no competence in this area. If they did, do we not think that members of the Russian LGBT community might have availed themselves of the opportunity to take the Putin government to task? A myth has grown up that it was the European Convention on Human Rights which forced the Blair government to introduce an equal age of consent and to allow gays in the military. It is true that the European Court did indeed rule on these issues but it has no power to force the British government to do anything. The change in the law came about because of political pressure, not because of pressure from the European Court. I should also make clear that even if we withdrew from the EU, we could still stay within the ECHR if we chose to – just as Russia is. But even if we withdrew from that too, we would still have a new British Bill of Human Rights, which would no doubt include protection for all sorts of minorities. I don’t know of a single MP in the House of Commons today who would even think about turning back the clock on age of consent, adoption or civil partnerships. Even on Equal Marriage, which a majority of Tory MPs opposed, most MPs I know who opposed it would not seek to reverse the legislation. I hope everyone reading this article will make their decision on how to vote in the referendum on exactly the same as their straight friends. We’ll all be affected in exactly the same way whether we decide to leave or remain. Let’s hope that by June 23rd ‘Project Fear’ has failed and that our political masters finally cotton on that they would do better to paint a positive vision of our future in or out of Europe. Otherwise there will a record low turnout. Happy voting! More stories: Making history: Prince William appears on the cover of Attitude Liam Gallagher slammed for homophobic tweet just days after Orlando shooting