Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘LGBT’

Remember 1967

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 30th June, 2017

Remember 1967Next month will see the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act, which decriminalised sex between males in the UK, though only for consenting men aged 21 or older and in private. It was a landmark achievement, bringing an end to an injustice that has endured since the Labouchere Amendment of 1885 led to many homosexuals and bisexual men in Britain being imprisoned, blackmailed or disgraced. But as Peter Tatchell pointed out in a speech to a commemorative event in the City last night, after the Act was passed, police actually became more active in pursuing cases against gay men and teenagers, and the definition of “private” was deemed to mean that no person could be in the same house or flat at the time, even if they were not involved. It was only in 2000 that the age of consent for gay sex was reduced to 16, in line with heterosexual sex, and in 2013 that the Equal Marriage Act gave gay and lesbian couples the right to marry. So it is fair to say that it took almost half a century for the aspirations of early parliamentary campaigners on LGBT+ rights, such as Leo Abse MP and Lord “Boofy” Arran, to reach fruition. During much of that time, Peter Tatchell has played a key role in championing gay rights and fighting injustice, not only in the UK but all over the world. In many Commonwealth countries of Africa and the Caribbean, for example, gay sex is still illegal, often the basis of British colonial laws. But last night’s commemoration, organised and hosted by the public artist Martin Firrell, rightly celebrated the positive achievements of the past half century, as well as setting some interesting challenges for those present. One of Martin’s current projects is Gender Tender, in which people are invited to enter imaginatively into a future where gender is regarded as something essentially private and intimate — a future where children are not assigned a gender at birth but society waits until children themselves are able – and wish – to choose a gender identity. Those of us who attended last night’s function were the first guinea pigs in a big gender think-in. But everyone can follow how things develop via http://www.Remember1967.com

Advertisements

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Tim Farron Bows Out

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 14th June, 2017

Tim Farron 4Earlier today, Tim Farron stood down as Leader of the Liberal Democrats after barely two years in the job. He didn’t have to do so, as the LibDems increased their number of MPs by 50% last week, in contrast to 2015, when there was devastation for the party at the polls, and Nick Clegg had little alternative but to fall upon his sword; that was despite having achieved really rather a lot as Deputy Prime Minister of Britain’s only post-War Coalition government. I did not back Tim in his leadership contest with Norman Lamb, partly because of his seeming ambivalence over LGBT rights, despite the fact that LibDems had been instrumental in bringing about Equal Marriage during the Coalition government. But that wasn’t the only reason. I thought Tim had been absolutely brilliant as President of the Party and he can certainly wow an audience of the faithful, with a good line in jokes and self-deprecation. But could I see him ever as Prime Minister, or indeed Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition? The answer had to be “no”. Of course, there was little other choice on offer two years ago, as most of the so-called Big Beasts of the previous parliament had lost their seats. At least the situation now is better, as several of them have returned to the green benches, including Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Jo Swinson (as well as some brilliant new talent). Tim was brave to pin his pro-European colours to the mast in the election that was sprung upon the nation a few weeks ago by Theresa May; I could only applaud that. But at times during the campaign he did seem to be coming across (unfairly) as a one-trick pony. Moreover, catastrophically, for weeks he failed to address the issue of whether he considered homosexual sex to be a sin, despite urgent pleas from LibDems’ LGBT+. Similarly, though he was perfectly entitled to declare himself a true Friend of Israel (as many Christian Evangelicals are), he turned a deaf ear to appeals to balance that with an equally clear stand on justice for the Palestinians and against Islamophobia.

Brian PaddickThis afternoon, (Lord) Brian Paddick, who had been acting as the LibDems’ Shadow Home Secretary recently, resigned from that post because of the Leader’s apparent ambivalence on LGBT rights and other classic “liberal” issues. I support absolutely an individual politician’s right to hold strong religious or moral views, but as Tim made clear today in his dignified resignation statement, there was a perceived contradiction in his own situation which was played on mercilessly by sections of the media and the Labour Party. All of Tim’s constituents that I have met over the years praise him to the skies, even if his majority was slashed last week. I hope whoever takes over after the forthcoming leadership contest (which, according to party governance, must go out to the whole membership) will find an appropriate role for him as a policy spokesman. Tim’s two years at the helm saw a doubling of the party membership and without doubt he had a different, distinctive voice from that of either Mrs May or Jeremy Corbyn. So, thank you, Tim, sincerely, for all that you have done. Now we LibDems must brace ourselves to go onwards and upwards.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

When Will America Reject Guns?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 13th June, 2016

The massacre of clubbers at a gay venue in Orlando, Florida, is the worst mass killing by a gunman in US history. Fifty people are dead and several others wounded; across the world there have been spontaneous vigils and acts of mourning. The gunman’s ex-wife says he has a personality disorder, which underlines why there need to be stricter controls on who can get access to guns and other weapons. Personally, I don’t think anyone outside the armed forces should have the ability to purchase a weapon that can slaughter so many people (and the armed forces should only have them for defence). Inevitably, there has been much comment — not least on social media — about the fact that the mass murderer, Omar Mateen, is Muslim and that he was said to have been offended recently by the sight of two men kissing. It is true that there are what in modern terms would be called homophobic passages in the Koran, just as there are in the Jewish and Christian bibles, but it would be wrong to use this incident as a stick with which to beat Muslims in general, especially during this holy month of Ramadan. I was pleased to see that Islamic groups in America have been among the first to offer condolences and material relief. Any people who might like to claim that Christianity is so much more enlightened when it comes to LGBT issues should examine how fundamentalist US churches promoted the hateful anti-gay legislation in Uganda and other parts of Africa, or look at the evangelicals in America who parade with signs saying “God Hates Fags”. What is clear is that the fight for LGBT rights and equality is far from over, both within religious communities and in the wider world. But for me the most striking thing about this dreadful incident is that yet again the United States has shown that its adherence to the “freedom” to bear arms has murderous consequences. I would argue that religious intolerance of homosexuality is an anachronism that needs to be confronted, but so too, sure;y, is America’s love of guns, more appropriate to the frontier age of the 19th century than to the postmodern 21st century. Until that issue is addressed, there will be more shootings by hateful or deranged individuals. And although the Orlando shootings have beaten the record for the number of dead, sometime before too long another atrocity will top that figure. While offering the Orlando victims, their families and friends our deepest condolences, we can only hope that one day the American public and legislators will see sense on gun control.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Equal Ever After

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 18th March, 2016

imageOne of the greatest achievements of the 2010-2015 Coalition government in the UK was the legalisation of same-sex marriage, thus underlining the fact that despite the country’s periodic embrace of conservatism, Britain today is an essentially liberal country. A large part of the credit for the safe passage of the Bill that enabled equal marriage (as many of its supporters prefer to call it) must go to Lynne Featherstone, former Liberal Democrat MP for Hornsey and Wood Green and a junior Minister at the Home Office under Theresa May for the first period of the Coalition. Lynne pushed it as her pet project, but of course with the full support of Prime Minister David Cameron and the LibDem leader, Nick Clegg. A rainbow coalition of NGOs and MPs of different parties rallied to the cause, while ranged against them were predominantly Tory politicians who wished to defend ‘traditional marriage’ between a man and a woman, as well as major religious communities (though not, I am pleased to say, the Quakers, Unitarians or Liberal and Reform Jews. The story of how the Bill became law makes gripping reading, in the book about it, Equal Ever After (Biteback, £14.99) that Lynne has taken the opportunity of writing following her defeat, along with most of the other LibDem MPs in last May’s general election. It’s a very personal story, passionately recounted, but also drawing on the speeches of parliamentarians on both sides of the argument, in both the House of Commons and in the House of Lords, plus extracts from anonymised correspondence (some of it vituperative) that Lynne received over the issue. For many people who did not follow the cause of equal marriage closely, perhaps the two biggest shocks will be the fact that for a long time the Labour-leaning Stonewall LGBT+ Rights group actually opposed equal marriage, and Mr Cameron refused to extend civil partnerships to heterosexual couples, threatening to scupper the whole deal unless this part of the package was dropped. As someone who is forthright in her views, Lynne pulls no punches in her criticism where she feels criticism is due. Fortunately, she is now in the House of Lords, so as long as that anachronistic institution exists, she can use it as a platform to promote causes still dear to her heart, including LGBT rights in Africa and elsewhere, and curbing violence against women.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pride in Europe

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 24th June, 2014

gay prideThis week, for the first time ever, the LGBTi Pride Rainbow Flag is flying from the facade of Europe House in London’s Smith Square, headquarters of the European Parliament office and European Commission representation. Yesterday afternoon, there was a seminar there on extending LGBT rights in the EU, learning from the UK experience. For once it was good to celebrate an area in which Britain is actually a leader in the European Union. Things are not nearly so advanced in some formerly Communist states of Europe, but the point was interestingly made at the seminar that labour mobility within the EU had helped to alter attitudes in some central and eastern European states radically. Poland is a good case in point; until recently overwhelmingly conserative an often homophobic it has recently liberalised, partly thanks to migrant workers who came to Britain, for example, and for the first time engaged with LGBTi people and later returned home with a different opinion. Alas, in some eastern European states that are not part of the EU the situation is still dire. It was good (but a little depressing) to hear of work being done to help activists in Belarus who have been prevented from setting up a solidarity group. In Russia, the situation is actually regresing, as Putin has led a red-blooded heterosexual counter-offensive as what he decries as gay EU expansionism. Anyway, when Conchita Wurst will lead the London Pride celebrations in Trafalgar Square this Saturday, so those of us living in London will have much to be joyful about,  which should fortify us to help defend the rights of those living in jurisdictions that are not so inclusive.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Peter Tatchell and LGBT Rights in Russia

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 21st May, 2013

LGBT RussiaPeter TatchellBy a spooky coincidence, while the House of Commons was debating the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, Liberal International British Group (LIBG), in collaboration with Liberal Youth, was holding a long-planned meeting on LGBT Rights in Russia, at the National Liberal Club. Through a skype link we had a long exchange with a brave young lesbian in Moscow, who for her own protection I shall simply call “A”, and who declared that essentially LGBT individuals have no fundamental rights in Russia. She is fortunate in having parents who accept her, as well as her boss at work, but the prevailing atmosphere is homophobic, from the government, the Orthodox Church and a large swath of public opinion. Neo-nazi groups are particularly hostile — a point Peter Tatchell also made, when he came to address the meeting, taking time out from following the House of Commons debate. Peter was of course badly beaten in Moscow some years ago when he was attending a Gay Pride event. Such events are now generally banned and Peter argued that probably there are other ways that LGBT groups can campaign for improvements in their situation. Earlier I had asked A whether LGBT individuals feel any common cause with political dissidents, journalists and others who are also suffering harassment, including death in the worst cases, so I was interested when Peter emphasized the point that human rights restrictions in Russia should be seen as a whole. He also made the point that many Russians reject Western values (a phenomenon I have noticed in parts of Asia and Africa), so what we may think of as universal rights or norms can appear to them alien and unacceptable. It is no coincidence that it is among the ultra-nationalists that one finds the highest levels of intolerance.

Link: http://www.petertatchell.net

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

European Liberal Democrats in the Caucasus

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 13th May, 2012

It was daring — even brave — of the Armenian National Movement to invite the European Liberal Democrats (ELDR) to convene a Council meeting in Yerevan this week, only days after general elections were held in Armenia, about which they have cried foul. ELDR has never had a meeting on such a scale in the Caucasus before, but it was doubly valuable for European Liberal Democrat Council members as the Liberal International organised a side-trip fact-finding mission to Georgia beforehand. I was involved in both, as the (UK) Liberal Democrats’ representative on the Executive of Liberal International and an elected member of the ELDR Council. I was in Armenia six years ago, travelling widely around the country, so it was fascinating to see how the capital Yerevan has been rapidly modernising, though the countryside has changed little and indeed gives the feeling of still being back in the Soviet era, only friendlier. But there was also a big contrast between Georgia (a first for me) and Armenia. In Tbilisi, our Georgian hosts — the Georgia Dream coalition — gave a very critical appraisal of how they see democracy fumctioning in their homeland, whereas the government — who looked after us for half a day — put a different spin on the state of affairs. But whoever was right about whichever issues there is no denying that Georgia is a place willing itself onto an upward trajectory, much aided by the abolition of widespread earlier corruption and personal insecurity. Most Georgians are anxious to get into NATO and one day into the EU as well; the 12-Star flag of Europe is prominant everywhere alongside the Georgian red cross. We were taken to the Line of Occupation on the edge of South Ossetia to remind us of just how close and real the Russian occupational presence is. In Armenia, in contrast, there is more of a Russian flavour to the capital, but of course there is also a big influence of the Armenian expatriate community from France and the United States, some of whom are presumably financing the massive amount of reconstruction going on. In the ELDR Council and contiguous special sessions we heard a lot from NGOs and others about alleged irregularities in last Sunday’s poll. But there was also, among other things, a fascinating session on LGBT Rights in the South Caucasus, organised in conjunction with the two Dutch Liberal parties (the VVD and D66) as well as International Liberal Youth (IFLRY). Just days ago a gay-friendly bar in Yerevan was set alight by far right activists, but nonetheless there is a lot of positive conscious-raising on equality issues (even in Georgia, where over 90% of the population say they disapprove of LGBT activism). The black hole as far as the Armenians are concerned seems to be Azerbaijan, but as I know from a visit there not all that long ago, things are modernising apace in Baku, financed by oil money, even if the regime is pretty authoritarian. All in all, the Caucasus is a region with huge political and economic potential, desperate to be seen as European, while at the same time retaining its diverse specificities.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Featherstone Flies the Flag for Equality

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 25th March, 2011

There have been many surprises since Britain last May got its first Coalition government since the Second World War. Who would have thought that the Conservative David Cameron would be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Nicolas Sarkozy in leading the international acceptance of the Responsibility to Protect vis-a-vis Libya? But there have also been big wins in the more personal arena, too, largely thanks to the Liberal Democrat influence in government. This is particularly visible in the field of LGBT rights. Britain has been leading the way on marriage equality, for example, as well as on the recognition of the rights and contribution of transgender/inter-sex people — with the feisty LibDem MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, Lynne Featherstone, flying the flag for equality in diversity. This innovation is being followed with interest on both sides of the Atlantic, as became clear in discussion at the annual dinner of Bermondsey and Old Southwark Liberal Democrats at the Yellow House in Surrey Quays last night. It was encouraging to see how many young atendees there were. Where the party is active, young people are rallying round, despite the rumpus over tuition fees.

Link: http://southwark-libdems.org.uk

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The LibDems’ New Generation

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 25th January, 2010

The boardroom at the Liberal Democrats’ headquarters in Cowley Street, Westminster, was packed this evening for a New Year reception for the New Generation intitiative, which seeks to make the party more representative of the communities that it serves, notably in the fields of ethnic diversity, LGBT sectors and disability. Since New Generation was first launched six months ago, the number of people directly involved has tripled. But as Nick Clegg — the keynote speaker at this evening’s event — stressed, the LibDems as a party still have quite a hill to climb in making the party’s elected representaties more diverse. There are currently only two LibDem ethnic minority members of the House of Lords, none in the Commons (following Parmijit Gill’s defeat in Leicester South at the last General Election), nor in the European Parliament, following N.W. England MEP, Sajjad Karim’s defection to the Conservatives. However, in recent months, the LibDems have not only selected a number of excellent BME PPCs to fight parliamentary seats, but also many BME Council candidates. Present at this evening’s gathering was the latest addition to the LibDem BME Councillor fold, Brian Haley, formerly a senior Labour representative on Haringey Council who had become disillusioned by that low-performing borough’s Labour administration. Nick Clegg is right: the necessary change won’t happen overnight, but things are moving in the right direction, especially in London — and quite right too, as the capital is Britain’s most diverse society. 

Photo: Cllr Brian Haley is welcomed by Lynne Featherstone MP (Hornsey & Wood Green) and Haringey Council LibDem Group Leader Robert Gorrie

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

IDAHO

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 17th May, 2009

IDAHOToday is the International Day against Homophobia (IDAHO). Some people in Britain and other parts of Western Europe might think such an event is unnecessary, as great advances have been made here in countering discrimination against peope on grounds of their sexual orientation. But the rough handling of Gay Pride activists in Moscow only hours before yesterday’s Eurovision Song Contest was a timely but unpleasant reminder of the prejudice and injustice that still exists in parts of eastern Europe, let alone beyond.

Liberal Democrats, such as Evan Harris MP and the MEPs Sarah Ludford and Sharon Bowles, have been in the forefront of action in both the House of Commons and the European Parliament to get proper legislation guaranteeing equal rights for sexual minorities, as well as countering homophobia. I have pledged that if I am elected on 4 June, I will press for European legislation to ensure the mutual recognition of civil partnerships between EU member states that have them, as this is not the case at present. Liberal Youth and DELGA (the LibDems’ LGBT group) have also been particularly strong in raising awareness and campaigning about homophobic bullying in schools.

In some countries of the the Middle East, the situation  for LGBT people has seriously deteriorated, not least in Iraq, where killings are now common — yet another negative consequence of the US-led illegal war. So, IDAHO is important, to remind us all of human rights abuses targeted at people solely on the grounds of their sexuality. 

Links: www.homophobiaday.org and www.idaho.org.uk

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »