Boris Johnson has today been announced as the new UK Prime Minister after Theresa May stepped down.
With a history of a mixed voting record on LGBTQ equality, human rights activist Peter Tatchell has provided a five-step plan for the new PM if he wants to enhance his ‘LGBTQ credentials’.
“Boris Johnson has a mixed voting record on LGBT+ equality. He’s sometimes been supportive and other times he’s abstained. His past insulting utterances count against him,” said Peter Tatchell, director of the human rights organisation, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
“As an MP, he voted to repeal Section 28 in 2003 and to introduce civil partnerships in 2004. He backed same-sex marriage long before many other MPs.
“But there is no indication that he has any commitment to remedying the remaining injustices faced by LGBT+ people.”
If Boris wants to enhance his LGBT+ credentials and reassure the LGBT+ community, there are at least five things he could and should do:
1. Trans rights
The Gender Recognition Act 2004 needs updating to simplify and ease the process of legally affirming a trans person’s true gender identity by a process of statutory self-declaration.
As PM, Boris needs to publicly support this reform and condemn the tabloids who demonise and vilify trans people.
2. Relationship and Sex Education
The parent protests in Birmingham and elsewhere against LGBT-inclusive education are an attack on LGBT+ pupils and parents - and on the teachers who support them.
Boris must call out religious extremists who seek to undermine our equality laws.
We want him to speak in defence of schools that acknowledge LGBT+ love and families and to affirm his government’s commitment to put LGBT-inclusive education on the curriculum of every school.
Boris should promise that the HIV prevention treatment PrEP will be available to all who need it, with none of the current rationing.
HIV/Aids is not over and PrEP is a cheap, cost-effective prevention drug that has proven to drastically cut the number of new infections and save the NHS the millions it costs to treat people once they become infected.
4. Compensation for victims of anti-gay laws
Tens of thousands of men were prosecuted for consenting adult same-sex acts, before these laws were fully repealed only a few years ago.
These men suffered the stigma of a criminal conviction and often fined or jailed. Many lost their jobs, homes, marriages, children and friends.
Some were beaten in the street, suffered mental breakdowns, became alcoholics and attempted suicide. Theresa May declined to offer compensation. Boris Johnson should remedy that failing.
5. Safe haven for LGBT+ refugees
Victims of anti-LGBT+ criminalisation, violence and discrimination come to the UK to claim asylum, only to find the asylum system is stacked against them.
They are sometimes locked up in immigration detention centres, routinely disbelieved even when they produce evidence of persecution, and banned from working while their asylum claims are processed, which can take many years, despite many of them having employment skills that the UK needs.
These injustices have to change. Boris should be leading the reform of the asylum system to ensure a safe haven for LGBT+ refugees.
Tatchell concluded: “This is a critical time for LGBT+ rights with reported homophobic and transphobic violence on the increase in Britain.
“These are not difficult or even costly asks but moral ones that Boris could easily achieve.”