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Boris Johnson’s LGBTQ rights advisor visits U.S.

Nick Herbert praises efforts to evacuate LGBTQ Afghans

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Nick Herbert, a member of the British House of Lords who advises Prime Minister Boris Johnson on LGBTQ issues, speaks at the Victory Institute's 2021 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in D.C. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

WASHINGTON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s advisor on LGBTQ issues last week applauded his government’s efforts to help facilitate the successful evacuation of LGBTQ Afghans from the country.

“I’m very proud of the tremendous work that’s been done by the U.K. government,” Nick Herbert, a member of the British House of Lords, told the Los Angeles Blade on Dec. 1 during an interview in D.C. “The U.K. has shown global leadership here.”

A group of 29 LGBTQ Afghans who Stonewall, Rainbow Railroad and Micro Rainbow evacuated from Afghanistan with the help of the British government arrived in the U.K. on Oct. 29. Herbert on Nov. 6 announced a second group of LGBTQ Afghans had reached the country.

“It took … a strong effort with different parts of government working together and the determination that this was really important and that people’s safety was at risk and also that we have a moral obligation to the communities affected,” said Herbert.

The Taliban entered Kabul, the Afghan capital, on Aug. 15 and regained control of the country.

A Taliban judge has said the group would once again execute people if it were to return to power in Afghanistan. Rainbow Railroad and Taylor Hirschberg, a researcher at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health who is also a Hearst Foundation scholar, and others have been working to help evacuate LGBTQ Afghans from the country.

Advocacy groups continue to urge the Biden administration to do more to help LGBTQ Afghans who remain in Afghanistan.

Herbert noted the British government has committed to grant asylum to 10,000 Afghans under the country’s “Operation Warm Welcome” that seeks “to ensure the Afghans who stood side by side with us in conflict, their families and those at highest risk who have been evacuated, are supported as they now rebuild their lives in the U.K.” Herbert stressed this program will “prioritize” LGBTQ people and other at-risk groups in Afghanistan.

“This shows the power of working together and governments working in partnership with NGOs to achieve something,” he told the Blade. “I fully recognize there were lots of citizens who remained in Afghanistan, and so nevertheless, I think it was very heartening to see that those Afghan citizens who are most at risk were brought to the center.”

Herbert said he expects more LGBTQ Afghans will be “brought to safety,” but he declined to provide a specific number.

Johnson raised LGBTQ rights crackdown with Hungarian prime minister

Herbert spoke with the Blade before he participated in the Victory Institute’s International LGBTQ Leaders Conference that took place in-person at the JW Marriott in D.C. from Dec. 2-4.

Johnson in May appointed Herbert as his LGBTQ rights advisor.

Herbert is the first person who officially advises a British prime minister on LGBTQ issues. The former House of Commons member also co-founded the Global Equality Caucus, a group of LGBTQ elected officials around the world who work to fight discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Herbert throughout the interview noted his government continues to champion LGBTQ rights.

The British government on World AIDS Day pledged more than £23 million ($30.5 million) in additional funding to efforts that seek to “achieve zero new HIV infections, AIDS and HIV related deaths in England” by 2030. The British government also announced it would move to allow people with HIV/AIDS to serve in the country’s armed forces.

“It’s a legacy discriminatory policy that has no basis in sound science any longer,” said Herbert, referring to the policy against people with HIV/AIDS in the British military. “It’s entirely safe for people to serve, and we think they should be free to do so.”

A public comment period on a bill that would ban so-called conversion therapy in England and Wales is underway.  Herbert also expressed concern over the increasing backlash over efforts to expand rights to transgender people in the U.K.

“I’m troubled by the debate,” he said. “I recognize that … this is a that a complicated issue where you have an assertion of conflicting rights. But I don’t think it’s acceptable to see some of the sort of angry exchanges of language that has been seen over the course of the last few months.”

“It’s very damaging,” added Herbert.

Herbert noted to the Blade that Johnson rose Hungary’s anti-LGBTQ crackdown with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán when the two men met in May in London. Herbert also highlighted the British government in June will host a global LGBTQ rights conference that will coincide with London Pride’s 50th anniversary.

“The prime minister, by the way, has always been very ready to raise these issues, both when foreign secretary and now as prime minister, which is why I think he wants to hold this conference on the agenda,” said Herbert.

“We have to stand together with other countries to express our concern about what is happening,” he added. “We also must take a strong stance against culture wars, and I think governments joining in culture wars results in harm to citizens.”

U.K. has ‘historic responsibility’ for anti-LGBTQ laws in former colonies

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in dozens of countries around the world, and many of them are former British colonies.

Then-Prime Minister Theresa May in 2018 said she “deeply” regrets colonial-era criminalization laws the U.K. introduced. Herbert spoke with the Blade two days after the Botswana Court of Appeals upheld a 2019 ruling that decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations in the country.

“We want to work with our partners in encouraging countries to try to change those laws,” Herbert told the Blade.

He stressed the British government has “to guard against any idea that we’re being so neocolonial,” while adding the U.K. has a “historic responsibility for these laws and their legacy.”

“The position we approach (with) this is one of respect where we, along with other countries, are encouraging decriminalization,” said Herbert. “We want to work with countries that will work with us to support them in that journey. We have to recognize that all countries have been on a journey.”

Herbert noted to the Blade that homosexuality was criminalized in the U.K. when he was born.

“We need to remember that other countries are different points of the journey, but it doesn’t all happen at once. And they have to make their own decisions on this and we have to encourage them to support them to do so,” he said. “I don’t think that this is a case of Britain lecturing, certainly not a case of dictating. It’s a question of encouraging.”

Herbert also questioned the use of sanctions against countries that enact anti-LGBTQ laws.

The British government late last year sanctioned three Chechen officials who are responsible for the anti-LGBTQ crackdown in the semi-autonomous Russian republic that continues. Herbert described these sanctions as “justified,” but said the British government has “to be careful of blunt instruments that may backfire.”

“There can be different ways to make our feelings known and to encourage countries to do the right thing,” he said.

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Boris Johnson to resign as the UK’s Prime Minister

“I have appointed a Cabinet to serve until a new leader in place,” the prime minister said Thursday outside Downing Street

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Boris Johnson (Bigstock photo by shganti777)

LONDON – Boris Johnson announced that it was time to step down as leader of the Conservative Party and prime minister Thursday after his government was left disabled by a wave of resignations of senior officials and cabinet officers fed up with what many publicly referred to as Johnson’s “lack of integrity.

Standing outside Number 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the prime minster on Thursday afternoon, addressing reporters and others watching, Johnson said: “It is clearly now the will of the party that there should be a new leader. The process of choosing a new leader should begin now.”

The prime minister will step down as party leader today but hopes to stay as PM until autumn to allow a leadership contest to be held and a successor appointed.

Johnson said the timetable for his departure and selection for the party’s new leader will be announced by a committee of senior Conservative MPs next Monday. A successor will likely be chosen by the end of August into early September.

“I have appointed a Cabinet to serve until a new leader in place,” the prime minister added, “I want to say to the millions of people who voted for us in 2019: thank you for that incredible mandate, the biggest Tory majority since 1987.”

The BBC had reported that Johnson announced his plans to continue to serve as prime minister until the autumn to allow a Tory leadership contest to take place in the summer, but many in his party including numerous Tory MPs called for him to resign immediately after more than 50 government ministers and aides quit his government as of Thursday morning.

The deputy chair of the influential 1922 Committee of backbench Tory MPs has joined colleagues calling for Boris Johnson to be replaced as prime minister immediately.

Amid boos and an occasional cheer, a still pugnacious the prime minister said it was his “duty and obligation” to stay on in his role. But he acknowledged that it was the time to step down.

Nus Ghani, MP for Wealden, said Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab should take over from Boris Johnson immediately on an interim basis.

The BBC said that Johnson came to the decision to step down after pressured by the fact his government was collapsing around him and he had lost nearly all support.

Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson’s former right-hand man turned nemesis, earlier urged Conservatives to remove him as PM Thursday tweeting a warning that if he is not removed there will be “carnage.” Cummings also noted that he supported the push to make deputy PM Dominic Raab the interim PM.

Wednesday afternoon a former ally of the prime minister, openly gay Housing Minister Stuart Andrew announced on Twitter that he had resigned citing in his letter posted to Twitter:

“Our party, particularly our members and more importantly our great country, deserve better. Having a marginal seat I have seen the huge sacrifice our members make in volunteering considerable hours to campaign on our behalf and I cannot, in all good conscience, tolerate them having to defend the indefensible.”

Johnson survived multiple scandals including a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons, multiple investigations and a criminal fine from police for his involvement in a series of law-breaking coronavirus pandemic lockdown parties.

However it was his denial of knowledge of the sexual assault allegations brought against Chris Pincher, the Tamworth MP who Johnson had elevated to a primary political position in the conservative party as deputy chief whip that ended up being the catalyst setting motion the multiple demands for his resignation and the departure of the over 50 government ministers and officials.

The denial from Downing Street regarding accusations of sexual misconduct against Pincher and still appointing him to a critical role was ultimately the proverbial final straw.

As late as Wednesday Johnson was still defiant telling Commons in remarks in the chamber, “The job of a prime minister in difficult circumstances when he’s been handed a colossal mandate, is to keep going.”

PinkNewsUK notes that Johnson’s government had “promised a lot to the LGBTQ+ community.” This included a reformed Gender Recognition Act, a trans-inclusive conversion therapy bill and a conference to celebrate the global LGBTQ+ community.

None of this happened. The government scrapped the GRA reforms, refused to protect trans people from its already-delayed conversion therapy and cancelled the Safe to Be Me conference after more than 100 LGBTQ+ groups pulled out in opposition to Johnson.

The prime minister also disparaged UK Trans athletes in answering a reporter’s question two weeks ago when he was asked about the FINA ban on trans women athletes.

The prime minster’s response was that there were “particular problems” around “issues of gender.”

Johnson told reporters, “Look it’s very, very important that as a society we should be as understanding of everybody else as possible. I’ve always stood for that. When it comes to, when you start to move from issues of sexuality to issues of gender, you start to raise particular problems,” he said.

In a follow-up question the prime minster was also asked whether women can be born with a penis, he replied: “Not without being a man.”

“I think I’ve spoken of three concerns I’ve had in the past. They are to do with the age at which you can deem it competent to transition, the question of safe spaces for women, and the difficulties you have with sporting competitions,” Johnson continued.

“These are all very difficult problems and you have to be very sensitive. But these are the areas.”

Under the Johnson and Tory-led government Britain, which led in the ILGA-Europe’s ranking of the most LGBTQ+ friendly nations in Europe in 2014, now stands at number14 in 2022.

Johnson resigns:

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UK Prime Minister’s cabinet takes another hit when Out Tory minister walks

Andrew is now the ninth most senior level minister to depart Johnson’s government, nearly all questioning the prime minister’s integrity

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Stuart Andrew, Conservative MP for Pudsey, Horsforth & Aireborough speaking in Commons (Screenshot/YouTube UK Government)

LONDON – The ongoing scandal that has crippled the government of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson took another twist Wednesday afternoon when Out Housing Minister Stuart Andrew announced on Twitter Wednesday afternoon he has resigned.

The openly gay Andrew was only appointed his role six months ago.

In his letter of resignation attached to his tweet, the Out Tory MP (conservative member of Parliament) wrote:

“Loyalty and unity are traits that I have always endeavoured to provide for our great party. However, I fear I have let these override my judgement recently.

“There comes a time when you have to look at your own personal integrity and that time is now. Therefore, given recent events, I have no other choice than to resign.

“Our party, particularly our members and more importantly our great country, deserve better. Having a marginal seat I have seen the huge sacrifice our members make in volunteering considerable hours to campaign on our behalf and I cannot, in all good conscience, tolerate them having to defend the indefensible.”

Andrew is now the ninth most senior level minister to depart Johnson’s government, nearly all questioning the prime minister’s integrity and ability to stay on after it was disclosed that allegations of groping males by a now disgraced deputy chief whip, appointed by Johnson, was known to the prime minster prior to Johnson’s placing him into that role.

PinkNewsUK reported Monday that Chris Pincher, the Tamworth MP stood down from the post on Thursday (30 June) after he was accused of groping two men at the Carlton Club in London. In 2017, he voluntarily referred himself to police after he was accused of making an unwanted sexual advance on Olympic rower Alex Story.

On Monday, the former permanent secretary at the Foreign Office and Head of HM Diplomatic Service, Simon McDonald, castigated the Johnson administration in a letter written July 4 that McDonald sent that he also posted on Twitter.

McDonald said No 10 had made “inaccurate” claims that Johnson was “not aware of any specific allegations” against Pincher when he was appointed deputy chief whip in February.

In his letter, McDonald said Pincher faced similar allegations shortly after he was appointed minister of state at the Foreign Office in the summer of 2019.

PinkNewsUK also noted that Johnson’s government has so far haemorrhaged 21 government officials, from members of his top team to Parliamentary Private Secretaries.

An official with the UK government with knowledge of the ongoing controversy regarding Downing Street’s evasive maneuvering on Pincher told the Blade Wednesday that the scramble to position a unified front backing the prime minister has been destroyed in part due to the fact that the prime minster was in fact aware of the 2019 complaints about the alleged sexual groping. The official noted that the denial, the retraction, and the clumsy efforts to redefine the government’s stance had angered senior cabinet members.

Johnson, who has so far survived a vote of no confidence in Commons, multiple investigations and a criminal fine from police for his involvement in a series of law-breaking coronavirus pandemic lockdown parties may be headed into a place where resigning will be the only option the official told the Blade.

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British Prime Minster backs ban on trans swimming athletes

When the prime minster was asked whether women can be born with a penis, he replied: “Not without being a man”

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Screenshot/YouTube Al Jazeera

KIGALI, Rwanda – During a break in-between sessions during the first summit meeting of the Commonwealth nations since the coronavirus pandemic in the Rwandan capital this past weekend, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was asked by a reporter about the FINA ban on trans women athletes.

The prime minster’s response was that there were “particular problems” around “issues of gender.”

Johnson told reporters, “Look it’s very, very important that as a society we should be as understanding of everybody else as possible. I’ve always stood for that. When it comes to, when you start to move from issues of sexuality to issues of gender, you start to raise particular problems,” he said.

In a follow-up question the prime minster was also asked whether women can be born with a penis, he replied: “Not without being a man.”

“I think I’ve spoken of three concerns I’ve had in the past. They are to do with the age at which you can deem it competent to transition, the question of safe spaces for women, and the difficulties you have with sporting competitions,” Johnson continued.

“These are all very difficult problems and you have to be very sensitive. But these are the areas.”

Pressed on whether he backed the swimming ban, Johnson said: “I haven’t studied it in detail but I see no reason to dissent. That follows from what I’ve previously said.”

Nadine Dorries, the United Kingdom’s Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport  in a column published this past weekend by the Mail on Sunday wrote:

“I have the greatest compassion for anyone who finds themselves living in a body they don’t recognise. But we can’t pretend that sex doesn’t matter. Sex has biological consequences. If you’re born a male, and you go through puberty as a male, your body develops natural physical advantages over a woman’s. That makes you stronger and faster.

“I’m setting a very clear line on this: competitive women’s sport must be reserved for people born of the female sex. Not someone who was born male, took puberty blockers or has suppressed testosterone, but unequivocally and unarguably someone who was born female. I want all of our sporting governing bodies to follow that policy.”

The Guardian UK noted that Dorries, said she will make it “crystal clear” to British sporting bodies that competitive women’s sport must be reserved for people born of the female sex when she meets them on Tuesday to discuss their transgender policies.

Dorries will urge organisations representing football, cricket, rugby, tennis, athletics and other sports to follow the lead of Fina, the governing body of swimming, by barring from female events trans women who have “gone through male puberty.”

PinkNewsUK reported Monday that since the swimming governing body FINA announced its revised trans eligibility policy, several national and international sporting administrators have followed.

The International Rugby LeagueFIFA and World Athletics, among others, have either temporarily banned or launched reviews into their trans inclusion policies.

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