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U.K. to host global LGBTQ+ rights conference

Event to coincide with London Pride’s 50th anniversary

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Nick Herbert, a member of the British House of Lords who advises British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on LGBTQ issues, on March 24, 2022, spoke with the Washington Blade about the Safe to Be Me Conference that will coincide with the 50th anniversary of London Pride. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

LONDON — The U.K. this summer will host a global LGBTQ+ rights conference that will coincide with London Pride’s 50th anniversary.

The Safe to Be Me Conference will take place in London from June 29-July 1.

The conference will focus on four areas: Fighting violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, expanding legal protections for LGBTQ+ people, ensuring equal access to HIV/AIDS treatment and other public services and working with businesses to promote LGBTQ+-inclusive practices.

Nick Herbert, a member of the British House of Lords who advises British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on LGBTQ+ issues, on March 24 told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview the criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relations is one of the issues the conference will highlight. Herbert also said he expects Johnson will be among those who will speak at the event.

“There is a huge enthusiasm for this event, a feeling that it is very timely, that it’s important for like-minded countries to get together … but also to try and bring other countries to the event that are on the journey towards LGBT+ rights and we encourage them to move in the right direction,” said Herbert. “I’m excited about the potential for this event, which I think could do real good.”

The Equal Rights Coalition, a group the U.K. currently co-chairs with Argentina, seeks to promote LGBTQ+ rights around the world.

Herbert said an Equal Rights Coalition meeting will take place in London on June 28, the day before the conference begins. The London Pride parade will happen on July 2.

Ruling against marriage equality in Bermuda, Cayman Islands ‘difficult’

Herbert spoke with the Blade ahead of the expected introduction of a bill in the British Parliament that would ban so-called conversion therapy in England and Wales. The interview took place less than two weeks after the Privy Council’s Judicial Committee blocked marriage for same-sex couples in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.

“I was personally sorry to see that decision, but I respect the fact that it is a decision by a court and we have to respect the legal process,” said Herbert, referring to the March 14 ruling. “Some people have been urging the U.K. government to step in … these are sovereign countries with their own elected parliaments and stepping in to override them would not be a small thing. And you could see it as a form of neocolonialism.”

“It is difficult,” he added. “What they need to do is to work with those countries to try and persuade them to change their own laws.”

‘Situation in Ukraine is deeply worrying’

The conference will begin less than five months after Russia invaded Ukraine.

“The situation in Ukraine is deeply worrying,” said Herbert. “It is appalling to see the impact on people in Ukraine.”

“We need to do everything that we can to help them, and that will include LGBT+ people,” he added. “Where there are special circumstances affecting LGBT+ people, we need to address those and I have been in discussions with other governments and officials about that.”

Herbert told the Blade that “what is happening in Ukraine does mean that we have to reassert our values; which are about the importance of human rights, of democracy, of self-determination.”

“The values that we bring to our conference in June are the same values,” he said. “I do see what we are doing in June is being consistent with the stance we are taking in Ukraine.”

The British government last fall helped evacuate two groups of LGBTQ+ Afghans from Afghanistan after the Taliban regained control of the country. Herbert told the Blade that “this work continues” with the U.N. and NGOs that include Stonewall in the U.K. and Rainbow Railroad in Canada.

“We continue to work to provide a safe place for LGBT+ refugees from Afghanistan,” he said. “We have a specific program to welcome people who are fleeing the regime in Afghanistan and we’ve identified LGBT+ people as potentially vulnerable who will need our help.”

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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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