I was amused yesterday to hear that the Mayor of London Boris Johnson is calling on gay Britons to vote to leave the European Union in June's UK Referendum. Apart from finding his comments absurd, they once again reminded me that he is an opportunist politician.
Boris Johnson says that LGBT people should vote to leave the EU because this will ensure their rights are protected, saying the UK has the “most progressive attitudes to LGBT issues anywhere in the world”. Yet, under the EU’s treaties and law, LGBT rights are already protected.
In all member states sexual activity between those of the same-sex is legal, and discrimination in employment for example has been banned since 2000. This means, Europe has been protecting our rights as gay people for over 15 years.
It’s no secret that when it comes to same-sex unions and marriage, along with adoption issues, each state in the EU has different laws which might not please all. However, it would be disingenuous of us Brits to throw stones at glass houses when marriage equality has only just become law in Britain. In Northern Ireland, it is still illegal in the year 2016. It was Europe as a Union that paved the way with marriage equality, with countries like the Netherlands and Spain well ahead of the UK. As British LGBT people, we may have more rights now, but it wasn’t always like this. The EU has played its part in making life for gay people more equal, with our European brothers and sisters often leading the LGBT way.
The pioneers of LGBT rights in 2015
The pioneers of LGBT rights in 2015
1/6 Justice Anthony Kennedy and the other Supreme Court Justices who legalised same sex marriage in the US
The US Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage is all 50 states of America in June, splitting 5-4 in favour. Writing the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy said gay people hope not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions.
2/6 Caitlyn Jenner
After she revealed her new self in an interview and cover with Vanity Fair magazine in June, the former olympian quickly became the most famous trans person in the world.
3/6 Cara Delevigne
The former model said she identified as bisexual in an interview with Vogue in July.
4/6 Ellen Page
The openly gay actress confronted Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz at a campaign rally in Iowa in August over laws that discriminate against the LGBT community.
5/6 iO Tillett Wright
The artist and Instagram star began the Self Evident Truths project in 2015 to photograph everyone who doesn’t identify as “100% straight”. Famously it featured Johnny Depp’s teenage daughter Lily Rose who said she fell “somewhere on the vast spectrum” and singer Selena Gomez who addressed rumours she was dating Cara Delevigne.
6/6 Ruby Rose
Australian born Rose was one of the very first celebrities to come out as genderfluid. She was hailed for giving it a public platform a the MTV Europe Music Awards in October when she welcomed “ladies and gentlemen, and everyone in-between” in her introduction.
As the London Assembly Member Tom Copley pointed out yesterday, the EU was banning workplace discrimination against LGBT people ‘back when Boris Johnson was writing that gay marriage could lead to three men and a dog getting married’. So, Mr Copley is right when he says we should treat the current Boris ‘stunt’ with the contempt that it deserves.
It’s important not to dwell on the past, but let’s not forget that it was Mr Johnson’s party that introduced the Section 28 law which prohibited local authorities from promoting homosexuality or gay ‘pretended’ family relationships. The MEP Seb Dance commented on this saying, ‘While the European Union was working to extend LGBTI around the world, Boris Johnson talked up the merits of Clause 28 and its ability to stop ‘leftwing local authorities to waste taxpayers’ money on idiotic and homosexual instruction’. It wasn’t until a Labour government, that this discriminatory act was finally repealed.
I’m neither in the ‘stay’ or ‘leave’ camp and don’t speak for either, but you don’t have to be a politician to know that being part of Europe is good for Britain and its LGBT people. We are stronger because we're in the EU, and a vote to leave would jeopardise this. For LGBT people, leaving Europe really would be a leap into the dark.