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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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British comedian challenges Beckham to give up £10 mil Qatar deal

In 2021, multiple news outlets reported Beckham had signed a ten-year deal with Qatar to be a face for soccer there

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Los Angeles Blade graphic

KINGS HEATH, Birmingham, UK – Joe Harry Lycett, a celebrity British comedian and television presenter, challenged British football [soccer] star David Beckham on Sunday to walk away from Beckham’s £10 million deal to be ambassador for Qatar during the FIFA World Cup.

In 2021, multiple news outlets reported Beckham had signed a ten-year deal with Qatar to be a face for soccer there. Qatar criminalizes same-sex “sexual conduct” and has persecuted transgender people in that country.

In October, Human Rights Watch documented arbitrary arrests and ill-treatment in detention of LGBT Qataris by the Preventive Security Department. As a requirement for their release, security forces mandated that transgender women detainees attend conversion therapy sessions at a government-sponsored “behavioral healthcare” center. Despite sustained pressure, Qatari authorities have refused to repeal laws criminalizing same-sex relations.

World Cup Ambassador Khalid Salman last week described homosexuality as “damage in the mind.”

Salman, a former Qatari soccer player, made the comment during an interview with a reporter from ZDF, a German television station, in Doha, the Qatari capital.

The former Qatari soccer player in response to the reporter’s question about the criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relations in his country described homosexuality as “haram” or “forbidden” under Sharia law. A member of the World Cup organizing committee abruptly stopped the interview after Salman made his comments. 

Beckham, the former captain of England’s national soccer team, has been heavily criticized for his decision to accept the paid ambassador position for Qatar at the FIFA World Cup 2022 from numerous LGBTQ+ rights groups.

Lycett released a video Sunday, (November 13) on his Twitter account:

“I consider you, along with Kim Woodburn and Monty Don, to be a gay icon,” he said.

“You were the first premiership footballer to do shoots with gay magazines like Attitude, to speak openly about your gay fans, and you married a Spice Girl which is the gayest thing a human being can do,” Lycett said.

Lycett continued: “You have always talked about the power of football as a force for good. Which suggests to me you have never seen West Brom.

“But, generally, I agree. So with that in mind I’m giving you a choice.

“If you end your relationship with Qatar I will donate ten grand of my own money (that’s a grand for every million you’re reportedly getting) to charities that support queer people in football.

“However, if you do not I will throw the money into a shredder at midday next Sunday, just before the opening ceremony of the World Cup and stream it live on a website I’ve registered called BendersLikeBeckham.com. Not just the money, but also your status as gay icon will be shredded.

“Also you’ll be forcing me to commit what might be a crime. Although even then, I reckon I’ll get off more lightly than I would if I got caught whacking off a lad in Doha.”

The comedian also set-up a website BendersLikeBeckham.com, which features only his video, as well as a countdown timer showing how long Beckham has to make his choice.

Beckham has yet to respond to the tweet or inquiries from British LGBTQ press outlets PinkNewsUK, Attitude, and other media outlets.

Additional reporting by Michael K. Lavers

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Britain’s new prime minister’s cabinet slams LGBTQ+ rights

Sunak’s inner cabinet ministers and top advisors negatively discussing LGBTQ+ equity and rights using homophobic and transphobic descriptions

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Houses of Parliament alongside the Thames River, London (Photo credit: UK government)

LONDON – Leading British LGBTQ+ media outlet PinkNewsUK released a short video on Twitter that contained clips of UK Prime Minster Rishi Sunak’s inner cabinet ministers and top advisors negatively discussing LGBTQ+ equity and rights using homophobic and transphobic descriptions.

SNP Parliamentarian John Nicholson, who represents Ochil & South Perthshire, Scotland noted that “With a few honourable exceptions, the #Sunak top team is packed with bigots. Have a listen to this shower….”

One week ago Sunak named actively transphobic MP Kemi Badenoch as minister for women and equalities.

Badenoch had previously served under former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss in the Government Equalities Office (GEO) during the premiership of former p.m. Boris Johnson, when Truss held the position of minister for women and equalities.

The Ministry is responsible for the protection and promotion of the rights of the vulnerable populations in Britain including the LGBTQ+ community, addresses gender inequalities, labour and employment as well as community mobilization and empowerment.

PinkNewsUK reported that Badenoch had felt empowered by Truss to push back against trans rights during her time in the GEO. “I could not have done anything without being empowered by my senior minister, Liz Truss, to challenge advice, meet whoever was relevant and do my job as I saw fit,” she wrote in The Sunday Times on 31 July. 

PinkNewsUK also reported:

In its 2019 manifesto, the Conservative Party vowed to “vigorously combat harassment and violence” against LGBTQ+ people. It also promised to “support marginalised communities in the developing world, hosting the UK government’s first ever international LGBT conference”. 

At the time, Anderson said that “trust and belief” in the government’s “overall commitments to LGBT+ rights” was damaged after Boris Johnson dropped long-promised plans to ban conversion therapy in the UK. Johnson later backtracked and decided to bring forward legislation to ban conversion therapy – but such protections would exclude the trans community

The Tory government’s LGBTQ+ conference was cancelled in April after over 120 LGBTQ+ rights and HIV advocacy groups pulled out due to {then UK prime minister] Johnson’s refusal to protect trans people from conversion practices. 

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British prime minister names transphobic MP as equalities minister

“We’ve got gay marriage & civil partnerships, so what are transsexuals looks for?” remarks leaked in 2021 a year after Badenoch became an MP

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Kemi Badenoch MP (Screenshot/YouTube UK Parliament TV)

LONDON – Within hours of his meeting with King Charles III and named UK’s latest Tory Prime Minister,  Rishi Sunak announced he was going to move quickly to fill key posts. Tuesday Sunak named Dominic Raab as deputy prime minister, James Cleverely as foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt who will stay on as chancellor, and actively anti-Trans MP Kemi Badenoch as minister for women and equalities.

Badenoch had previously served under former UK Prime Minister Liz Truss in the Government Equalities Office (GEO) during the premiership of former p.m. Boris Johnson, when Truss held the position of minister for women and equalities.

The Ministry is responsible for the protection and promotion of the rights of the vulnerable populations in Britain including the LGBTQ+ community, addresses gender inequalities, labour and employment as well as community mobilization and empowerment.

PinkNewsUK reported that Badenoch had felt empowered by Truss to push back against trans rights during her time in the GEO. “I could not have done anything without being empowered by my senior minister, Liz Truss, to challenge advice, meet whoever was relevant and do my job as I saw fit,” she wrote in The Sunday Times on 31 July. 

Badenoch secretly met with both anti-trans activist Keira Bell and anti-trans lobby group LGB Alliance in her first stint at the GEO. It was reported that the anti-Trans non-profit LGB Alliance had reached out to her to argue against banning conversion therapy, a practice considered “torture” by the United Nations, PinkNewsUK noted.

Civil servants reportedly said at the time it was “inappropriate” of Badenoch, whose job it is to promote “transgender equality“, to speak with people who wants to limit the rights of young trans people. The Tory MP “overruled” them and spoke to anti-trans activists nevertheless.

PinkNewsUK also reported that in remarks leaked in 2021, but made in 2018, just a year after Badenoch became an MP, she reportedly described trans women as “men using women’s bathrooms” and asked: “We’ve got gay marriage and civil partnerships, so what are transsexuals looks for?”

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10 Downing St. musical chairs: Rishi Sunak new UK Prime Minster

Sunak is expected to travel to Buckingham Palace Tuesday to be appointed prime minister and asked to form a government by King Charles III

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Rishi Sunak & doorway to Number 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the UK Prime Minster (Los Angeles Blade graphic)

LONDON – Following the resignation of Liz Truss, her 44 days in office — the shortest tenure of any British prime minister in history last Thursday, the conservative party met Monday and named has Rishi Sunak as the new Tory party leader.

Sunak is expected to travel to Buckingham Palace Tuesday to be appointed prime minister and asked to form a government by King Charles III. Sunak’s rise to head of the party came after after the only other candidate, Penny Mordaunt, dropped out of the race. Former prime minister Boris Johnson had hinted at a potential challenge to return but abruptly announced Sunday that he was not in the running to get his old job back.

The 42-year-old Sunak is one of the wealthiest people in Britain, his wealth exceeds the fortune of the British Monarchy itself. The Washington Post noted that the former banker, and his wife, Indian tech heiress Akshata Murty, have an estimated fortune of about 730 million pounds ($827 million), according to the Sunday Times Rich List. On the 2022 list, the monarch was estimated to have about 370 million pounds ($419 million) by comparison.

Leading British LGBTQ+ daily publication PinkNewsUK notes that for Britain’s LGBTQ+ community there are divisions over Sunak’s taking over. Jayne Ozanne, the former government LGBTQ+ advisor and anti-conversion therapy campaigner, was among those to congratulate Sunak PinkNewsUK reported.

Ozanne told PinkNews: “In congratulating Mr Sunak on his appointment as prime minister, I would urge him to prioritise the needs of those who are feeling the most vulnerable and scared at this time of extreme uncertainty.

“This includes members of the LGBT+ community, many of whom live in constant fear given the toxic nature of the debate over trans rights, exemplified by soaring hate crime statistics.

“He has an opportunity to address these concerns directly by giving a clear commitment to a full ban on ‘conversion therapy’ and abolishing the barbaric Rwanda asylum policy.

“Moreover, I hope he will look to reset the clock in relation to the Tory party’s disastrous relationship with the LGBT+ community over the past few years.”

Others in the UK LGBTQ+ community were less enthusiastic the news site reported.

Longtime human rights and LGBTQ+ rights activist Peter Tatchell told PinkNewsUK:

“Rishi offered nothing to the LGBT+ community during his leadership campaign,” he said. “I am not hopeful about any progress on banning conversion therapy or reform of the Gender Recognition Act under his premiership.”

Tatchell called for an immediate election, adding: “Rishi has no mandate for anything. He was not elected by the British people. He was selected by a tiny group of just over 100 Tory MPs.

“There has to be a general election to ensure that our prime minister and his policies have a public mandate.

“Changing prime minister and government policies twice without an election is not democratic.”

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She’s out! (Not in a gay way) UK Prime Minister Liz Truss resigns

Her abrupt departure marks the second rebellion against the policies of a prime minister in four months by the ruling Tory party

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Liz Truss (Screenshot BBC)

LONDON – The famous black door with the brass number 10 opened and the petite blond-haired woman emerged striding to the podium to address the British people Thursday morning, announcing her resignation as Britain’s Prime Minister.

With her announcement, Liz Truss became the shortest serving prime minster in the country’s recorded history at only 44 days, compared with England’s longest serving prime minister Sir Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford, who is generally regarded as the de facto first Prime Minister of Great Britain, whose term ran 20 years and 314 days, (1721–1742).

Her abrupt departure marks the second rebellion against the policies of a prime minister in four months by the ruling Tory (conservative) party. The BBC noted that Truss said her successor would be elected by next week.

Tory MPs revolted against Truss after a series of U-turns on her economic plan sapped her of authority. In her brief speech the prime minister said the Conservative Party had elected her on a mandate to cut taxes and boost economic growth.

But given the rebellion, she acknowledged, “I recognise that I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party.”

Truss said she would remain in post until a successor formally takes over as the Tory party leader and is appointed prime minister by King Charles III.

Truss was also pilloried by Britain’s LGBTQ+ community, one activist telling Pink News UK that the prime minister would be remembered by the LGBTQ+ community for her “silence and inaction.”

“Liz Truss will be remembered for her many failures, indeed for many in the LGBT+ community she will be known for her silence and inaction on critical matters that have impacted our safety and allowed perpetrators of hate to act with impunity,” Jayne Ozanne, an LGBTQ+ activist who previously sat on the government’s LGBT Advisory Panel, said.

“Following the ‘summer of hate’, where the trans community saw their rights become a toxic political football, she did nothing to address soaring hate crime figures or progress the urgent need for a ban on conversion practices.

“We now need a prime minister who takes our concerns as highlighted in the 2018 LGBT+ Survey seriously and who has the humility to listen, take advice and admit when they have made mistakes,” Ozanne added.

Cleo Madeleine, communications officer at trans charity Gendered Intelligence, told PinkNews UK that the next prime minister must learn from Truss’ failures.

“Liz Truss has not left a positive legacy for the office of prime minister. Her leadership campaign was marked by anti-trans rhetoric as she competed for the attention of the Tory right.

“She appointed ministers with dubious records on LGBT+ rights. Her equalities minister, Nadhim Zahawi, criticised teaching about trans people in schools. Health minister Therese Coffey was a staunch opponent of equal marriage and consistently voted against improvements in LGBT+ rights.”

The White House released a statement from President Joe Biden reflecting on the news that Truss had stepped down.

“The United States and the United Kingdom are strong Allies and enduring friends — and that fact will never change. I thank Prime Minister Liz Truss for her partnership on a range of issues including holding Russia accountable for its war against Ukraine. We will continue our close cooperation with the U.K. government as we work together to meet the global challenges our nations face,” Biden said.

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Britain bids farewell to Queen Elizabeth II, an iconic monarch

Jordan’s King Abdullah II, remembered the Queen as an “iconic leader” and “beacon of wisdom and principled leadership”

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The coffin of Queen Elizabeth II draped in the Royal Standard during her funeral services at Westminster Abbey (Screenshot live feed/Press Pool)

LONDON – World leaders joined Britain’s Royal family and 2,000 other dignitaries for the hourlong state funeral service of Queen Elizabeth II in tributes and prayer at Westminster Abbey Monday.

The King, Charles III, accompanied by his Queen-Consort Camilla, the Prince of Wales William with his wife Kate and their children Prince George and Princess Charlotte, the King’s siblings Anne, Princess Royal, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, the King’s younger son, Harry, Duke of Sussex, their wives and the extended royal family escorted the coffin into the services and later attended the private interment at the Royal vault at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle where the deceased monarch will rest alongside her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

The King accompanied by Queen-Consort Camilla is seen here with his sister Anne, Princess Royal during state funeral services for their mother Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey Sept. 19, 2022.
(Screenshot live feed/Press Pool)

The state funeral was attended by numerous heads of state including the new U.K. Prime Minister Liz Truss, U.S. President Joe Biden and the First Lady Jill Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron and President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, were also present.

Leaders of most Commonwealth countries attended, with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese making the nearly 24-hour journey from the other side of the globe.

In addition to political and other dignitaries including other European royals attended along with Japanese Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako. Japanese news outlet Asahi Shimbun reported, citing Imperial Household Agency officials, that a Japanese emperor has only attended the funeral of a foreign head of state or royal family member on one previous occasion, when then-Emperor Akihito attended the funeral of Belgian King Baudouin in 1993.

Spain’s King Felipe VI and his wife Queen Letizia were among the European royals who attended. Former Spanish King Juan Carlos I and former Queen Sofia were be present. The former King is the great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria and a distant cousin of Queen Elizabeth II.

Reuters reported that Jordan’s King Abdullah II, who remembered the Queen as an “iconic leader” and “beacon of wisdom and principled leadership,” also attended.

The Nave of Westminster Abbey, during state funeral services for Queen Elizabeth II
(Screenshot live feed/Press Pool)

Elizabeth II oversaw a significant change in the role of the monarch and Britain’s place on the world stage in the 70 years she was on the throne. Reuters noted that the 40th sovereign in a line that traces its lineage back to 1066, Elizabeth came to the throne in 1952 and became Britain’s first post-imperial monarch.

She oversaw her nation trying to carve out a new place in the world, and she was instrumental in the emergence of the Commonwealth of Nations, now a grouping comprising 56 countries.

She guided her government over the administrations of 15 Prime Ministers starting with Sir Winston Churchill and ending with her asking Liz Truss to form a government as Prime Minister only a couple of days before her death at Balmoral Castle, her summer home in the Scottish highlands.

The Queen’s legacy in regards to the LGBTQ+ community was complicated

In 1952, when she took the throne after the death of her father, King George VI, same-sex sexual relations were criminalized in Britain. The same laws were also brought to the Commonwealth countries that it colonized, NBC Out reported.

By the time she died, the landscape for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer rights looked dramatically different — at least in the United Kingdom — in part because she approved of many pro-LGBTQ measures, such as same-sex marriage. That support has led some to argue that she was a “quiet” supporter of LGBTQ rights, but to others she was just doing her job.

Elizabeth, among other things, pardoned Alan Turing, an acclaimed World War II codebreaker and computer scientist who died by suicide two years after his 1952 conviction for “gross indecency.” 

Elizabeth gave royal assent to the Sexual Offenses Act of 1967, which decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations among men in England and Wales who are at least 21.

Elizabeth gave royal assent to the marriage equality law that took effect in England and Wales in 2014. Elizabeth has also urged the U.K. to ban so-called conversion therapy.

Additional reporting by Michael Lavers, Reuters, AFP, and NBC News Out

Queen Elizabeth II’s Funeral at London’s Westminster Abbey – LIVE (previously recorded):

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