...but I won't cut, because this stuff matters.
Over the past decade and change of a Labour government, we've seen
* The gay age of consent lowered from 21 to parity with heterosexuals - 16.
* The repeal of Section 28 which forbade the "promotion" of homosexuality in schools (more about this below)
* Civil partnerships, allowing gay couples (nearly) all legal rights equal to marriage.
* Equality legislation which prevents suppliers of goods and services refusing gay customers on the grounds of sexuality.
* Equal opportunity legislation (albeit with exceptions for homophobic religious types) which prevents discrimination against gay people in employment.
* Homophobic violence defined as a hate crime.
Labour's record on gay rights is far from perfect, but it's freaking Wonderland compared to that of the
Party of Section 28
So much for history. What about the future policies? Well, here's a sample of Conservative thinking:
Chris Grayling, the shadow home secretary, believes B&B owners should be allowed to refuse service to gay people
. Yes, that's right: back to the good old days of "No blacks, no Irish" signs in windows. Just, you know, not the racist kind. Note that as home secretary, he would be one of the three most powerful people in government, and responsible for matters of crime and justice.
Julian Lewis, another of the Conservative front bench team, recently stated he believes it was wrong to lower the homosexual age of consent to 16, in line with straights, because of AIDS
. So...he thinks straight people can't get HIV from unprotected sex? Or, unprotected sex doesn't put straight teenagers at risk from other things? By that logic, the lesbian age of consent should be okay, right? Or maybe even lower? The man's ignorance is astounding.
Rates of new HIV infections - in this country at least - are highest among drug users, not gay men.
[ETA: Correction - my stats were a few years out of date. The 2008 statistics do tell a different, and worrying, story
.] And STD infection rates are becoming scary among straight teens
In Europe, the (British) Conservative party is allied with a far-right alliance which includes parties in other countries with explicitly anti-gay policies. While the Tory MEPs didn't actually vote against a motion condemning recent anti-gay legislation
in Europe not a single Tory MEP supported it
Cameron, the man who would be Prime Minister if his party wins next month's election, believes that equal rights for gay people are a matter of conscience
. And lest you're thinking well, yes, it is
understand that the "matter of conscience" thing means something very specific in parliament-speak: it means an issue deemed to be outside normal party policy, so party leaders allow members vote on these rare issues as they please, instead of following the party whip. To put that in perspective, the usual "matter of conscience" issues are the death penalty, assisted suicide and abortion. There is usually a general consensus between the parties that an issue is a "matter of conscience". But in this case, Cameron is the only party leader to see it that way. So, in other words, he's quite happy to support the homophobes within his own party (see above!) in their attempts to derail equality legislation.
What about the man himself? Cameron has been courting the "pink vote", but his own record tells a very different story. He voted to deny access to IVF to lesbian women who could not "prove" their children would have a "father figure".
Yeah, you read that right. If lesbian women want to have children, Cameron believes they shouldn't be allowed to do it without the assistance of a man.
Cameron also voted against the repeal of Section 28
. Section 28 was an odious piece of legislation, and one of the (few) unreservedly good things about the Labour years is that they got rid of it. This law forbade teachers from "promoting" homosexuality in schools. It was always nonsensical legislation: it's not like anyone was trying to recruit for the gay army before that. This odious law was interpreted to mean that schools could not appear to show any kind of support for gay students, they couldn't mention homosexuality in sex education, they couldn't lecture against homophobic bullying, they couldn't do anything to help kids who were confused about their sexuality. Any kind of LGBTT youth group was considered illegal. Regardless of the intent of the legislation (not that I believe for a second it was really about protecting children), this was its practical effect.
I went to school during the Section 28 era. Today, I have no problem identifying as gay; then, I had no idea that I was. But I was a fat kid with glasses and close to my best friend, so I was the target of a lot of homophobic bullying. By the time I was 14, I couldn't walk from one class to the next without someone hissing "lez" behind me. Someone started a completely false rumour that my friend and I had been caught in flagrante behind the school building. I didn't realise it at the time, but it became clear to me after I left school that this lie reached most of my teachers and they assumed it was true.
This culimated in my friend and I being sexually assaulted by a gang of other kids in a school bathroom. The details are not important, but please don't imagine anything too horrible. What is
important, is that not a single one of those kids was punished by the school. To my knowledge, they weren't even reprimanded. And my friend and I, when we reported the incident, got no support at all from the school. Nil, zip, nada. Oh, someone let us sit in a private office while we pulled ourselves together. And then sent us both back to class.
I don't blame the teachers. I understand now, as I didn't then, that they couldn't have done anything else. Any teacher who treated us like human beings on that day would have been risking their job and their future career.
This was the effect of Section 28. This is the kind of thing David Cameron's vote endorses.
Everyone knows that politicians lie. But few of them lie as poorly as Cameron does when he attempts to present his party as a champion of equality.
Before I was old enough to vote, a very wise person told me, when in doubt, vote against
. Sometimes it's not the proposals and philosophies you want to support that matter. It's the ones you don't
. This is a prime example.
[ETA2: I'm not a journalist, m'kay. I'm happy for this post to be shared anywhere but it was written with people who know me in mind. For those who don't know me "gay" is just my umbrella term for LGBTTQI. It's just the word I've always used for myself because most of the alternatives are tainted by my experiences of bullying.]