Johann Hari: A brave step – will the Tories follow?

Share
Related Topics

Under the current Labour Government, there has been a stunning sweep of progress for gay people – with civil partnerships, an end to Section 28, and openly gay people in the Army and the Government. The culture of Britain has been changed forever, and for the better.

Yet when I interviewed Gordon Brown for Attitude last month, it became clear that – although he is genuinely proud of these advances, and eloquent in their defence – the internal pressure for further improvements has leaked away. He had few ideas for how to carry on beating back irrational prejudice against gay people.

So it is impressive that Nick Clegg has articulated, in full, and with striking passion, an action plan for the next stage in the fight to make gay people truly equal.

It starts with the few areas left where gay people are still unequal under the law. Civil partnerships should, he says, be called marriage, and have exactly the same rights, rather than the inferior second-rate option they represent today. The ban on gay men donating blood – as if we are all Typhoid Marys – would end.

But he also wants the Government to begin the harder job of tackling homophobia on the streets and in the playgrounds. He knows why: 41 per cent of gay children get beaten up in school, and they are six times more likely to commit suicide than their straight siblings. He says every school must teach that homosexuality is "normal and harmless and something that happens". There can be no religious excuses. He wants to see this tightly policed: "We need to put serious pressure on them. It needs to be a requirement."

In the same way, he says the Government needs to drive homophobia out of the police, where a 2005 Home Office study found it to be "endemic". He compared several recent cases – where gay people were murdered and the investigations appeared to go badly wrong – to the Stephen Lawrence tragedy, and said there needs to be a change of culture "on patrol, on the beat, in the changing room, in the officers' mess, in the staffroom".

This is genuinely brave, because Clegg is taking the fight to the last remaining bastions of bigotry. He will get a nasty kick from religious fundamentalists who say that gay couples should never be allowed to marry, and who claim they have a "right" to teach homophobia to children in a way that produces such disproportionate rates of violent bullying and suicide. The right-wing press will savage it as an attack on "freedom" – when, in fact, it is a defence of the freedom of gay people to live their lives free of irrational hate.

David Cameron claims he genuinely regrets his support for homophobic laws like Section 28. Clegg is sceptical, pointing to his recent decision to ally with "faggot"-baiting politicians in Europe. But he has also provided Cameron with an opportunity. When I interview the Conservative leader for Attitude soon, I will ask: will Cameron now support the Liberal Democrats' bold programme to make Britain a genuinely equal country?

To read Johann Hari's interview with Gordon Brown for Attitude, click here

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The campaigning is over. So now we wait...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
In this handout provided by NASA from the the Earth-orbiting International Space Station, weather system Arthur travels up the east coast of the United States in the Atlantic Ocean near Florida in space. The robotic arm of the Space Station Remote Manipulator System or Canadarm2 is seen at upper right. According to reports, Arthur has begun moving steadily northward at around 5 kt. and the tropical storm is expected to strike the North Carolina Outer Banks  

Thanks to government investment, commercial space travel is becoming a reality

Richard Branson
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week