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UK expands pardons for consensual sex between same-sex partners

Conditions will still need to be met for a pardon to be granted, including that the sexual activity must not have been aged 16 or under

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10 Downing Street, center-point of the UK government & home to the Prime Minister (Photo Credit: UK Government)

LONDON – The U.K. government announced that it was amending the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, adding categories of persons eligible to expunge the records of people who were convicted of crimes related to consensual homosexual activity.

U.K. Home Secretary Priti Patel, a Tory cabinet member noted in a statement released Monday: “It is only right that where offences have been abolished, convictions for consensual activity between same-sex partners should be disregarded too.

“I hope that expanding the pardons and disregards scheme will go some way to righting the wrongs of the past and to reassuring members of the LGBT+ community that Britain is one of the safest places in the world to call home.”

There were initially only nine crimes involving homosexual sex that were pardonable starting in 2012. Then in 2017, Parliament passed and the Queen gave Royal Assent to a law named after famed gay mathematician, pioneering computer scientist and Second World War codebreaker Dr. Alan Turing. Known as ‘Turing’s law,’ it granted posthumous pardons to others who were convicted of sexual acts that are no longer deemed criminal under British law.

However, activists and civil rights/LGBTQ campaigners argued the crimes covered by the scheme were too narrow as the law only covered nine former offences included on a specified list, with a large focus on the repealed offences of buggery and gross indecency between men, PinkNewsUK reported.

PinkNewsUK also reported that the amendment will broaden the criteria to “include any repealed or abolished civilian or military offence imposed on someone purely for, or due to, consensual homosexual activity.”

“Conditions will still need to be met in order for a disregard and pardon to be granted, including that the sexual activity must not constitute an offence today and anyone else involved must have been aged 16 or over.”

Word of the decision was celebrated by the co-founder of the U.K. LGBTQ rights organization Stonewall, Out member of the House of Lords, Michael Maurice Cashman on Twitter:

“6 years work by Lord Lexden, Prof Paul Johnson of Leeds, & me to widen pardons & disregards for historical homosexual convictions to become law. UK did so much wrong; reputations & lives can finally be uplifted.”

Another prominent member of Parliament’s Upper House of Lords also noted the annoucenment:

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Boris Johnson’s LGBTQ+ rights advisor criticizes advocacy groups over conference cancellation

Nick Herbert acknowledges episode damaged UK ‘global reputation’

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Nick Herbert is a member of the British House of Lords who advises British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on LGBTQ issues. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s advisor on LGBTQ+ issues on Sunday issued a lengthy statement in response to the boycott of the government’s Safe to Be Me Conference that prompted its cancellation.

Nick Herbert, a member of the British House of Lords, in his statement described the conference’s cancellation as “damaging to the government and to the U.K.’s global reputation.” Herbert added it is “also an act of self-harm by the LGBT lobby.”

The conference was to have taken place in London from June 29-July 1.

The British government cancelled it last week after more than 100 British LGBTQ+ rights groups announced they would boycott it in response to Johnson’s decision to exclude Transgender people from a conversion therapy ban. LGBT Business Champion Iain Anderson on Tuesday resigned over the issue.

Here is Herbert’s entire statement.

The Safe To Be Me equality conference was to be a global first, bringing governments, businesses, parliamentarians, faith leaders and activists together to discuss how to advance LGBT rights across the world. Our focus was on ending violence, advancing decriminalization in the 71 jurisdictions where homosexual conduct is still a crime, ensuring access to HIV/AIDS treatments, and building the economic case for inclusion.

We had remarkable speakers lined up and exciting plans for a new public-private fund to support LGBT groups in countries where they need our help. There was enthusiasm from governments and organizations planning to attend, often indicating they would bring new announcements or commitments to progress LGBT rights. We aimed to drive real action globally, and one major government had already indicated that they would hold a successor event to take agreed initiatives forward.

The conference’s cancellation is damaging to the government and to the U.K.’s global reputation. But it is also an act of self-harm by the LGBT lobby. Having orchestrated the boycott which brought the event down, Stonewall now claims to be “truly sad that the government does not feel in a position to run the UK’s first global LGBT+ conference,” adding that this shows a lack of concern for equal rights. Crocodile tears will be of little consolation to brave human rights defenders in countries where the right to wave a rainbow flag without being arrested is a distant dream.   

LGBT groups were understandably dismayed, as was I, when a promised conversion therapy ban was suddenly dropped and then only partially reinstated just hours later. The bill will no longer extend to trans people, reflecting concern that more time is needed to ensure that legitimate therapies to help young people with gender dysphoria are not inadvertently criminalized. I believe such concerns can be allayed. Helping people come to terms with who they are is not the same as setting out to take them in one direction or the other — that is not therapy, it is ideology, and it can do irreparable harm.  

It is quite possible that Parliament will decide to include trans people in the new law, as many other countries have done, for instance in Canada, where Conservative MPs unanimously supported the fast-tracking of a ban. But we must address the concerns and make the case for change, deploying the evidence and reassuring parliamentarians that a ban which include trans people is a safe and justifiable course to take.

Some of those who have raised their voices in Parliament about trans rights are reactionaries who opposed reforms such as equal marriage. But others are not. They are decent, middle-of-the-road politicians who supported gay rights but have genuine concerns that gender ideology may have gone too far, and that women’s rights and children must be protected.

Opinion research tells us that the public is sympathetic to trans people, and wishes to be kind, but has concerns about certain issues such as the safety of women in single sex spaces and especially the fairness of trans women competing in elite women’s sports. Our laws already allow for sensible balances to be struck to meet these concerns: Exemptions to the Equality Act allow single sex spaces to be protected, trans women prisoners to be placed in special wings, and sports bodies to set rules which may exclude trans competitors. Calm explanation of the facts and discussion on the right boundaries of these compromises is needed.

But social media, the rise of identity politics and the bitter polarization of every issue does not lend itself to rational discussion. When the prime minister expresses concerns, in reasonable terms, about issues such as fairness in sport, he is not being “transphobic”, as Stonewall immediately branded him. Nor is he alone, and growing disquiet across the political spectrum cannot sensibly be swept aside.

In the days when it was winning, the LGBT lobby made a compelling case for change, engaging successive governments and briefing parliamentarians. Now it is organizing boycotts and shouty protests. A fortnight ago in Manchester, a protester held up a trans flag with the words “some women have penises.” It is hard to imagine a surer way to lose a public argument. For days afterwards, politicians struggled to say whether they agreed, or could define what a woman is. A sensitive, complex debate is being reduced to ugly, dehumanizing talk about body parts.

Some may tell the government that this is a political opportunity for a wedge issue, but this would be deeply unwise. It is one thing to make an issue of statue-toppling and historical revisionism, another to appear to be attacking minorities and vulnerable people. It is also a misreading of public opinion. People want to hear solutions: they don’t see these issues through an ideological lens. 

We must not allow a descent into a political mire which is dominated by extremes and which suffocates the reasonable middle ground. Across the Atlantic, this debate has become toxic, with hideous and persecutory anti-trans laws being passed by state legislatures. That is not who we are. We have to find a way to take the heat out of this debate.

I believe we now need a Royal Commission to examine these issues dispassionately. Its members would have to be truly neutral for such an inquiry to work: It could be led by a senior judge. It would need to be set up with cross-party support and without predetermination of its direction or outcome. Weighing the evidence on contested areas such as sport, safe spaces for women, and gender identity services for children and young people — building on the work of the independent Cass review — would be a better way to detoxify the debate, protect trans people from being caught in the political crossfire, and find the common ground we need.

No one will win from a culture war on these issues, and those most harmed will be trans people who already feel stigmatized, people who are different yet just like us, human beings who deserve greater kindness than today’s politics will permit.

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British government cancels global LGBTQ+ rights conference

Boycott announced after prime minister backed trans-exclusive conversion therapy ban

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(Photo by Rob Wilson/Bigstock)

LONDON — The Washington Blade has confirmed the British government has cancelled a global LGBTQ+ rights conference it was to have hosted this summer.

The Safe to Be Me Conference was to have taken place in London from June 29-July 1. Toby Usnik, the head of communications for the British Consulate General in New York, on Tuesday confirmed the conference has been cancelled.

The conference’s cancellation comes a day after Stonewall and dozens of other British LGBTQ+ rights groups announced they would not attend in response to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to exclude transgender people from a conversion therapy ban. LGBT Business Champion Iain Anderson, whose appointment Women and Equalities Minister Liz Truss announced last September, on Tuesday resigned.

“It is disappointing to see partners withdraw from an international conference focused on the fundamental human rights issues facing LGBT+ people around the world, and as a result it will not be possible to proceed with the Safe To Be Me Conference,” said a British government spokesperson on Wednesday in a statement.

“We remain committed to strengthening LGBT+ rights and freedoms and will continue to support human rights defenders globally and to influence and support countries on the path to decriminalization,” added the spokesperson. “The U.K. will continue to engage extensively with our international partners, and we will continue to use our position on the world stage to push for global change for LGBT+ people.”

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U.K. LGBTQ+ groups protest Trans-exclusionary conversion therapy ban

“It is apparent that Trans people have once again been sacrificed for political gain- this is callous and unacceptable”

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The Palace of Westminster home of the House of Commons and the House of Lords (Photo Credit: UK Government)

LONDON – More than 80 LGBTQ+ rights groups, including Stonewall, will pull out of the U.K. government’s first global LGBTQ+ conference after Prime Minister Boris Johnson reportedly decided to exclude Trans people from a conversion therapy ban. 

Johnson’s move was first reported by ITV News U.K. editor Paul Brand, who tweeted last week that legislation would cover “only gay conversion therapy, not trans.” That was a reversal from a previous ITV report of a Downing Street briefing that said Johnson agreed to not move forward with legislation banning conversion practices, despite years of promises from the government. The fierce backlash to the move caused Johnson to change course. 

However, the U-turn was not enough for LGBTQ+ campaigners, who announced Monday they would pull out of the U.K.’s first “Safe To Be Me” conference “due to the Prime Minister’s broken promise on protecting trans people from the harms of conversion therapy,” Stonewall said in a statement.  

“We will only be able to participate if the Prime Minister reverts to his promise for a trans-inclusive ban on conversion therapy,” it added. 

Stonewall said it made the decision with a “heavy heart,” explaining the conference “should be a moment for redoubling efforts globally to improve LGBTQ+ people’s rights and experiences.” However, last week’s plan to scrap the conversion therapy ban and Johnson’s subsequent reversal – which “protects lesbian, gay and bi cis people, but leaves trans people, including trans children, at continued risk of abuse” – left it “with no choice but to withdraw our support,” the organization said. 

“It is apparent that trans people have once again been sacrificed for political gain,” the statement added. “Commissioning a separate body of work to unpick something that has already been resolved many times the world over, can only be read as an attempt to kick the issue of protecting trans people into the long grass. This is callous and unacceptable.”

Over 80 LGBTQ+ rights groups in the U.K. supported Stonewall’s statement, including LGBT Foundation, Mermaids and the Scottish Trans Alliance, according to the Guardian

“[The government’s] subsequent U-turn was an insulting attempt at compromise that excluded our trans, non-binary and gender-diverse community,” the LGBT Foundation tweeted. “To be clear, our rights cannot be conditional on political convenience or expediency.”

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