The most revolutionary party in terms of gay concerns is the Liberal Democrats.
The party virtually has a pink manifesto. It contains pledges to introduce an all-encompassing
Equality Act, to allow gays and lesbians the right to adopt children, to reform
laws on sexual offences, to remove discrimination against trans-sexuals and to recognise
The party has also consistently committed itself to scrapping Section 28, unequivocally
supported the equalisation of the age of consent and called for anti-discrimination laws
for people with HIV and AIDS.
Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy has not only taken a personal lead on gay issues but
also ensured the community that they will be at the forefront of the party’s election
agenda. In short, we’ve been promised the earth. With bells on.
But as fantastic as that is, unfortunately, the Lib Dems don’t have a hope in hell
of ever being elected into office. So while Kennedy undoubtedly has a good heart,
his pledges carry no clout. But of course if you're in a consituency where the Lib Dems
keep out a Tory and Labour has no chance, then you just have to vote tactically.
As for the Conservative Party, no self-respecting gay man could even consider
voting Tory under their current leadership. In spite of Michael Portillo’s call
for all-embracing conservatism, don’t expect to be included in a group hug.
Not only did the majority of the party oppose the lowering of the gay age of
consent (some even argued for it to be raised), it also repeatedly rejected the
Government’s call for the repeal of Section 28 - and has vowed to continue to do so.
Happy to pander to the prejudices of pebbledash people, leader William Hague has
voiced fierce opposition to same-sex relationship rights. As has his hard-right,
right-hand woman Anne Widdecombe.
Not only has she said that gay relationships aren’t valid, Widdecombe’s described
the proposed Partnership Register as a “travesty”. And by offering a £1000 tax
incentive to married couples with children, the Conservative Party has made it
perfectly clear which side of the picket fence it sits.
Which leaves us with (not so) New Labour. Four-years on, have things got any better?
Well, yes and no. Since 1997 the UK has achieved an equal age of consent of 16, gays
and lesbians can now legally serve in the British armed forces and same-sex partners
have been granted immigration rights.
On the downside, Section 28 is still stubbornly in place everywhere except Scotland,
same-sex partnerships remain unrecognised, the commitment to ban workplace discrimination on the basis
of sexual orientation is unrealised and, although reviewed, the Sexual Offences
Act remains unreformed. The Government has also been criticised for leaving the
UK’s National HIV Strategy hanging.
Prime Minister Tony Blair has promised that a second Labour term will be more radical.
Now that the party’s proved it’s a safe pair of hands, it’s hoped that another crack
at the Government whip would give New Labour the opportunity to grapple with
But will Blair deliver? Who’s to say for sure? He better. If New Labour fail to
address existing inequalities and aggressively argue for change, the gay lobby
groups will be on its case and reluctant to persuade us to back the party ever again.
So, although disappointed that not nearly enough has been done, OutUK is prepared
to give the Government another go. Not that we have much choice. New Labour,
after all, is our only realistic hope. And whilst we will expect things to get
better, we can’t help but look across the Atlantic to see that things could be
that much worse.