LGBT issues on the agenda at the Lib Dem conference

Publish Date: 20/09/2011

Today's big story revolves around Party members at the conference voting to urge the government to go further on removing blood donation restrictions on gay men.

The lifetime blanket ban was lifted earlier this month, but today the Lib Dems voted in favour of the 12 month deferral ban being lifted too.

Adrian Trett, Chair of LGBT+ Liberal Demorats (formerly Delga) said: "I would say that this is pushing Liberal Democrat policy to what we'd like the Government to fulfill. The 1 year deferral is an improvement, but is not sufficient or not far enough. LGBT+ Liberal Democrats will continue to lobby our Goverment Minister to fulfill the polocy motion approved, at the Liberal Democrat autumn conference in Birmingham 2011."

Yesterday evening, lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) issues were the main topic of debate at the Stonewall Fringe Event. The event was chaired by Adrian Trett, Chair of Delga - the officially recognised  organisation committed to promoting the policies of the Liberal Democrats to gay men, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people.

The panel included, Lib Dem Mayoral Candidate Brian Paddick, Stephen Williams MP and Ben Summerskill (Chief Executive, Stonewall), and the main thrust of the debate was around LGB representation in public life and sport.

One of the panelists - a county councillor highlighted challenging the media around LGB&T representation and portrayal, and as part of this welcomed Mr Paddick's inclusion in the race for mayor in terms of LGB visibility.

Stephen Williams then talked about politics and LGB representation in sport. Which prompted a further discussion that football appears to be missing from some of the anti-homophobia activities taking place in sports.

Brian Paddick let the audience know about his discussion with the Commissioner of the Met whether he should come out during his tenure; but there was a concern from the Commissioner that there would be a homophobic reaction. He said that he wanted to portray a positive image of LGB people in the police.

He talked about the barriers that are made by the media around people coming out in public life, especially around what is and and isn't personal.

He went on to state that people need to get used to the fact that lesbian, gay and bisexual people are holding significant public positions.

Ben Summerskill paid tribute to the great work of Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone; specifically around marriage equality and stated that although it is great that it has been put forward with a timescale against it, the challenge lay with the House of Lords and that there should be a push on the Lib Dem peers to vote for equality.

He also highlighted that the greatest wrong in this country is homophobic bullying in schools, and then talked about his personal experience of having his arm broke at school by bullies; based on his sexual orientation.

The debate was then opened up to the floor for questions; Zoe O Connell talked about the Lib Dem leadership programme and said that whilst the party are getting trans and gay men interested, she wondered how more lesbians could be engaged?

Ben Summerskill said in relation to this; the metric is Stonewall had a low number of women staff a few years ago; around 30%, now this is 50%.  The reason for this positive change was around speaking up about the fact that this was a strategic intention.

Paddick responded that the party needs to positively welcome LGBT people  People seeing LGBT people in roles will send out a positive image, saying "I certainly won't be ashamed of being openly gay in public life".

Williams felt that following Parliament reassembling after the 2010 General Election; the Lib Dems went backwards; less black and female candidates were in the Lib Dems and said it was important for the party to address this.

Other questions included suffering homophobia in later life, and shortlists aimed at specific equality strands.

Coming Soon: Equality Minister Lynne Featherstone taking questions at the conference. will also be reporting from the Labour and Conservative Party Conferences.

Edited by Joanne Dunning.



  • Jen

    Slight error there, Stephen WIlliams said not that the LDs had fewer black and women *candidates*, but that they had fewer BAME and women *MPs*, this time than in the 2005-2010 parliament.