Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Peter Tatchell’

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

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A Day for Celebration

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 29th March, 2014

Harimgey equal marriage wedding partyequal marriageAt one minute past midnight last night the first same-sex marriages took place in England and Wales and today the sun is shining on many such ceremonies. What a long way this country has come since 1967, when Home Secretary Roy Jenkins oversaw the decriminalisation of consensual homosexual relations between adult men, helping end nearly a century of persecution, prosecution, imprisonment and blackmail, not to mention countless suicides. It is to the credit of the Coalition government — not least the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, for pressing ahead with legislation on equal marriage despite opposition from traditionalists and some religious groups. There have been heroes in all the political parties in this struggle, both inside and outside the Houses of Parliament, including men such as Peter Tatchell, who was vilified when he first championed the cause. Special mention should go to LibDems Lynne Featherstone in the Commons and Liz Barker in the Lords, who did so much to further the legislative process. This morning, Lynne was a guest at a same sex wedding party (see picture) in Haringey, which for me sums up the brilliance of Britain’s modern diversity. Brilliant, too, has been the wave of enthusiasm and congratulation from heterosexual, as well as bi and gay, Britons. There is a festive air in England and Wales today, and surely it can’t be long before Scotland and maybe even Northern Ireland follow suit. As a teenager I lived in dread of being a “criminal” in the eyes of English law. But today I can truly say how proud I am to be British.

Link: http://news.sky.com/story/1233797/first-gay-weddings-pm-hails-equal-marriage

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Nick Clegg’s Equal Marriage Celebration

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 11th September, 2013

Admiralty HouseNick Clegg LGBTSo quickly has public opinion moved that it seems almost unbelievable that the last Labour government shied away from upgrading same-sex civil partnerships to ‘marriage’ because of the fear of a backlash (including from some of their MPs). But it is a tribute to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (strongly and admirably supported by PM David Cameron) that he oversaw the relatively smooth transition into law of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act this summer. In an appropriately informal speech at a reception in Admiralty House, Westminster, this evening, he paid just tribute to Lynne Featherstone as the then Equalities Minister (subsequently replaced by Jo Swinson) and Baroness (Liz) Barker, who made a moving and heartfelt personal act of testimony in a speech in the House of Lords. As a Quaker (and therefore part of a religious group which has recognised the validity of loving same-sex relationships for several decades) I have been saddened by how far behind most of the mainstream Churches are on this. It was also heartening that some of the supportive luvvies, including my old friend Stephen Fry and Hugh Grant, turned out tonight, as did hardcore campaigners such as the truly noble Peter Tatchell (who has been a beacon for the LGBT+ community in Russia). Of course there was a good sprinkling of LibDem MPs and Lords, but this was not an occasion for narrow party politics. We were one big happy group, straight, gay and bi/trans +, celebrating the fact that we had won, and in doing so had proved what an open and tolerant society Britain has become, even if a minority still can’t quite get their heads around it.

Link: http://www.lgbt.libdems.org.uk

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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

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Standing up for Phil Maxwell

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 24th September, 2009

There was an interesting political line-up at Toynbee Hall in East London this evening, when I (representing the Liberal Democrats) spoke alongside Peter Tatchell (Green Party candidate for Oxford East), Cllr Peter Golds (Leader of the Conservative Group on Tower Hamlets Council) and a member of staff from local Respect MP George Galloway’s office, at a meeting chaired by UNISON’s John McLoughlin. A Labour councillor was expected to attend, but apparently got sat on by his party before the event, which is maybe not surprising as the subject was the shabby treatment meted out by the Labour-run Council to Phil Maxwell, the officer who has for the past decade been running its award-winning waste education project in schools. The Council is now set to privatise the operation — in which Phil Maxwell will be the only person transferred out — and has awarded the contract to the multinational corporation Veolia, reportedly without putting the contract out to competitive tender, as it is obliged to do under European law.

That in itself would be fishy enough, but Phil Maxwell (who is also an acclaimed photographer and film-maker, as well as a former Labour councillor) is convinced that the Council wants to get rid of him, not only because of his union activism but also because he is gay. The Council does of course have a full equalities commitment, but the question there is whether the fine declarations of intent hide a less savoury reality. Phil Maxwell says his request for a detailed internal inquiry into the matter was brushed aside. It is a tribute to his work and character that so many colleagues, friends and well-wishers from across the political spectrum rallied around him this evening, almost filling the main Toynbee Hall. All this adds more spice to what look like being extremely interesting local elections next May, in a London borough that recently ousted (at great cost) its Chief Executive and has seen a whole raft of inter-party defections and candidate deselections.

Link: www.philmaxwell.co.uk

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Europe Gets Centre-stage with London LibDems

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 15th November, 2008

jf-with-sl-and-dinti-battone

The European elections may still be a little over six months away, but they were very much the main focus of attention at the Liberal Democrats’ London Regional conference in Camden today. In the morning there was a session at which both the sitting MEP Sarah Ludford and myself (as No. 2 on the LibDem list) made presentations, as did Victoria Marsom and Chris Leaman from the party’s campaign department. I focussed on policy issues for next year’s campaign, highlighting the environment, the economy and security/civil liberties. The core message was that the party can indeed win two seats for London next time — as, frankly, it should have done in 2004 — while at the same time, local parties can use the Euro-elections to help them realise their Westminster parliamentary and borough council ambitions.

In the afternoon, Chris Huhne MP made a speech on putting Europe across on the doorstep. The LibDems are a party campaigning for reform of the EU to make it work better, but starting from the premise that European cooperation is a good thing and that many of the major challenges of our age need to be tackled regionally, if not globally. Dinti Batstone (No. 3 on the London list) gave an excellent and motivating presentation on targeting EU voters in 2009 — in other words, citizens of other EU member states who are resident in London and therefore should be encouraged to vote here. Simon Hughes MP, the outgoing party president, underlined the importance of European and international issues and the party’s commitment to them.

At different times during the day, both Sarah Ludford and I were able to slip out to talk to the annual LGBT Conference organised by the University and College Union (UCU), conveniently being held just three tube-stops away. Sarah was able to report on the excellent work that she and some of her colleagues in the European Parliament have been doing, such as putting pressure on the Labour government not to deport LGBT asylum seekers to countries where they might be executed or suffer persecution; extending civil partnership recognition EU-wide; and ending the US ban on inward travel/immigration by people living with HIV/AIDS. My brief was to cover the role of the British Press on related issues. Whereas there has been a welcome shift in the approach of some tabloids (notably The Sun, following Sir Elton John’s and David Furnish’s civil partnership and Pater Tatchell’s confronting Robert Mugabe) there is still a lot of subcutaneous homophobia amongst journalists on newspapers such as the Daily Mail and the News of the World, which erupts to the surface from time to time.

Links: www.libdems4london.org.uk and www.ucu.org.uk

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