Slovakia will vote

European Union Flag

European Union FlagOn Tuesday, the Slovak Constitutional Court ruled that Slovakians will be called to vote in a multi question referendum seeking to limit the rights of LGBT people and to limit sexuality education.

The questions ended up at the Constitutional Court after President Andrej Kiska was faced with a petition with 400,000 signatures organised by Alliance for Family, supported by the American far-right evangelical organisation Alliance Defending Freedom.

The Constitutional Court ruled three out of four questions were admissible. One relates to the definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman, whereas a second seeks to ban adoption of children by “same-sex couples or groups.”

A third question that was deemed constitutional relates to sexuality education, and seeks to include opt-outs if parents do not agree with the content of the education.

Sophia in 't Veld MEP

Sophia in ‘t Veld MEP

Only a question seeking to prohibit any future same-sex registered partnerships was deemed unconstitutional.

Opponents of equality have used referendums since the 1990s to limit the rights of LGBT people, especially in the USA. They have traditionally mobilised enough human and financial resources to ensure outcomes reflect their views.

Vice-President of the LGBTI Intergroup-designate of the European Parliament, Sophie in ‘t Veld MEP commented: “This debate is not about Slovakia, but about EU’s fundamental rights, tolerance and equality. We may not turn a blind eye to religious organisations fuelling intolerance towards our very own EU citizens.”

“It is distasteful that after the Croatian referendum, we again face a referendum on eliminating the rights of fellow citizens. Such a process has no place in an enlightened continent like Europe.”

“After Social Democrats, supported by Christian Democrats, constitutionally banned possible future same-sex unions, Slovakia is on a slippery slope. I urge the Slovak people to stand up for the rights of their compatriots.”



An LGBT Manifesto for 2015?

photo: Houses of ParliamentWhere next for LGB&T equalities? The heads of some of the bigger LGBT organisations across England have put together their proposals in an LGBT manifesto for 2015.

They say: The passing of equality & same-sex marriage legislation in England, Wales & Scotland were hugely significant turning points in LGBT equality, both in terms of rights, and of the increased visibility of LGBT people. However, there is still a long way to go in ensuring full equality for LGBT people in the UK, particularly in relation to Northern Ireland and also less visible groups such as: bisexual, trans and non-binary people; BME LGBT people; older LGBT people; LGBT youth; LGBT immigrants and asylum seekers; and LGBT people who are mentally or physically disabled.

The manifesto can be downloaded here.

Its key points are:

Education: Educate all children & young people, at all levels, on gender & sexual diversity

The main message relates to education because this has the potential to address all the other points in the long-term. LGBT people will be safer if children do not grow up to be homophobic, biphobic or transphobic, whether actively or passively. LGBT people will suffer fewer mental health problems if they are not bullied at school and if they and their peers learn that diverse sexualities and genders are valid. Access to services will be less problematic if staff and employers have learned about gender and sexual diversity and the specific needs of LGBT people.
Currently, at least two thirds of LGBT young people experience homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying at school, as do many who are not LGBT. Almost all regularly hear discriminatory language and one in five have experienced physical attack and/or sexual harassment, very few of whom report this. Few people learn about LGBT identities at school, with bisexual, trans and non-binary experiences being notably absent. This impacts upon wellbeing and educational performance, as well as contributing to  attitudes within their families and whether young people feel able to come out, with 1 in 10 young people having to leave home due to lack of acceptance.
Teachers express discomfort in supporting LGBT students and in teaching on gender and sexual diversity. This is despite the tangible potential benefits decreasing prejudice and sexual violence, and increasing self-esteem and promoting healthy, consensual relationships across all students. We recommend that gender and sexual diversity is emphasised in teacher training, and embedded across the curriculum as well as in specific sexual and relationship education.

Safety: Monitor and address homophobic, biphobic & transphobic hate crime

One in five lesbian and gay people have experienced a hate crime in the last three years. It is extremely difficult to estimate the extent of biphobic hate crime as this is not  currently monitored, and transphobic hate crime is still vastly under-reported due to fear of further discrimination. Better monitoring and training is required across these areas within the criminal justic system, as well as more generally among public & private sector employers. Same-sex activities and relationships remain illegal in over 70 countries worldwide, and punishable by death in 8. Immigration services require LGBT awareness and the UK should provide a model of LGBT equality and continuing  engagement on these issues globally.

Wellbeing: Improve the mental and physical health of all LGBT people through increased visibility & improved awareness

LGBT people have significantly higher rates of mental health problems, sexual health needs, self-harm and suicidality than in the general population. Rates are particularly high for BME LGBT people and those who are bisexual, trans, and gender diverse. There are also related disparities in many physical health conditions and health behaviours (including drug and alcohol abuse), and in willingness to disclose to health professionals. There is little awareness of the specific needs of older LGBT people. Monitoring and training with regard to gender and sexual diversity, and adoption of best practice, is vital across all services.

Access: Ensure that all LGBT people have equal access to public services

LGBT people do not currently have equal access to public services due to fear of discrimination and lack of awareness of diverse needs. Monitoring, training and adequate capacity remain a priority across policy and practice including, but not restricted to: employment; healthcare; criminal justice; education; housing; domestic abuse; and family matters such as adoption and pre and post-natal care.

Manifesto Support

The LGBT Chief Executive Network is formed of a diverse range of Chief Officers, or equivalent, across the LGBT sectors in the UK. It meets several times of year and works to ensure the sector is engaged, collaborative and forward thinking. The following organisations as part of the network have signed up to the manifesto: The Intercom Trust, Bi-UK, Schools Out, Broken Rainbow, London Friend, The Rainbow Project, Birmingham LGBT, PACE, GMFA, Trade Sexual Health, LGBT Consortium, Lancaster LGBT, Galop, Cara-Friend, Yorkshire Mesmac, METRO, Stonewall Housing, Gendered Intelligence, Mind Out, New Family Social, LGBT History Month, Gay Advice Darlington & Durham, Camden LGBT Forum, The Albert Kennedy Trust, GIRES, SexYOUality, Here, Each, Allsorts Youth Project, East London Out Project, The Lesbian & Gay Foundation.

European Parliament condemns Russian clampdown

European Union Flag

European Union FlagIn a resolution adopted last week, the European Parliament strongly condemned the intensified clampdown on Russian civil society which will further limit work on LGBT people’s freedoms and rights there. The motion condemns the strengthened ‘Foreign Agents Law’.

In June 2014, Putin signed amendments to the law which allow the Ministry of Justice to register community groups or non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as “foreign agents” at their own discretion, without the organisations’ consent. Organisations thus categorised will be subject to additional scrutiny by the government.

Dennis de Jong MEP

Dennis de Jong MEP

Hundreds of NGOs have been targeted, among which many organisations working on LGBTI rights.

Vice-President of the Intergroup-designate on LGBTI Rights in the European Parliament Dennis de Jong MEP, reacted: “LGBT people, and those who defend their rights, are under threat through legal efforts attempting to curtail their rights, as well as an increasingly homophobic climate in which violence against LGBT people goes unpunished.”

“Russia needs to be held accountable on these issues. I urge the European Commission and the External Action Service to continue raising these discriminatory and suppressive laws in their relations with Russia, to make sure that freedom of organisation for LGBT people is taken seriously.”

Tanja Fajon MEP

Tanja Fajon MEP

Vice-President of the Intergroup-designate on LGBTI Rights, Tanja Fajon MEP, added: “Organisations defending the rights of LGBT people are under attack in Russia, both by the Foreign Agents Law and the Anti-Propaganda Law.”

“For this reason, it is absurd that the ECR sought to delete just the reference to LGBTI activists in its text. This shows how out of touch their group has become with the real world. Thankfully, a reasonable majority voted to keep LGBTI activists in the resolution.”



Tackling biphobia in schools: what’s your plan?

photo: Houses of ParliamentA £2 million package will be offered to schools to help them tackle biphobic, transphobic and homophobic bullying, the government has announced today. 

Organisations are being urged to come forward with ideas to stamp out such bullying.

The money announced today will be offered to charitable and not-for-profit organisations that come forward with creative ideas to stamp out homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in our schools – those projects that will make the biggest difference to the lives of all young people growing up in modern Britain.

Nicky Morgan, Conservative Secretary of State for Education and Minister for Women and Equalities, said:

“Homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying affects everyone, not just young people who may identify as LGBT. Any young person who is different can find themselves subjected to distressing and intimidating homophobic abuse. This funding will help schools take on the challenge of making sure bullies do not stand in the way our young people achieving their full potential.”

Jo Swinson, Lib Dem Minister for Women and Equalities, said:

“Young people should grow up feeling safe expressing who they are. We know the damage bullies can cause to young people’s self-esteem and educational attainment. There should be absolutely no excuse for this taking place in our schools.

“I am excited to see the creative proposals that this fund will bring about, to make sure we can bring homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying to an end.”

Civil Partnership to Marriage: conversion rules

The Lib Dems blocked the first draft of the conversion process

The Lib Dems blocked the first draft of the conversion process

The government’s second draft of rules for converting a civil partnership to a marriage has been published today.

They will come into effect from 10th December and apply to Wales & England.  It’s expected that Scotland will have its own equivalent rules published in the near future.

You can read the legislation here.

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