Do we really need a foreign secretary with an anti-gay rights record?

Does Britain really want to project an anti-gay message on the world stage?

Does Britain actually want to project an anti-gay message on the world stage?

LGBT rights are under severe threat in large parts of the world. In parts of Africa and the Middle East they are practically non-existent, with gay and lesbian people facing execution or life imprisonment in states like Uganda.

A resurgent Russia under Vladimir Putin is also attempting to halt what it sees as the spread of American and Western “non-traditional values”. In a speech last December, Putin said that traditional family values were a bulwark against “so-called tolerance – genderless and infertile”.

As is so often the case with the promotion of ‘traditional values’, what is really desired is a wholesale roll-back of LGBT rights.

And yet it hasn’t always been easy for gay and lesbian people living in the UK either, with many of the battles won in the recent past still being fought by the Trans community.

Pride in the distance we’ve travelled on LGBT rights should, though, be a facet of the image Britain wishes to project to the outside world.

This why the prospect of Philip Hammond as foreign secretary is a concern.

Hammond was one of just four Cabinet ministers to vote against gay marriage last year and has previously been accused of likening gay marriage to incest. Last year Pink News reported that Hammond “told students in Surrey that allowing gay couples to marry would be like sanctioning ‘incest’ … When the students asked why, the MP believed the government should retain a ban on same-sex marriages, he responded by likening the current ban on equal marriage to ‘incest’, where it is illegal for two siblings to enter into wedlock.”

Hammond voted against the equalisation of the age of consent, the repeal of Section 28 and against allowing same-sex couples to adopt children.

He doesn’t appear to have had a significant change of heart, either. At the end of last year Hammond was still maintaining that the Gay Marriage Bill was “damaging” for the Conservative Party and that he was “shocked” by the legislation.

This isn’t the sort of image Britain wants to project to the world at the best of times. When you have a resurgent global anti-LGBT movement grouped around a powerful ally in Russia it’s a serious cause for concern.

We’ve heard a lot from the government recently about the promotion of ‘British values’. One of these values is, presumably, the right LGBT people now have to live the life they want to live – regardless of ‘traditional’ opinion.

But for values to have any meaning they must be universally applicable. If you believe a white Englishman should have a particular right then you cannot deny the same right to a Black African.

The government has made significant progress in the area of LGBT rights for British citizens, yet it thinks it appropriate to appoint a man who has always been hostile toward them as its de facto spokesperson aborad. This at a time when LGBT rights are severely threatened in a significant proportion of the globe.

It may indeed be time for a fresh face at the foreign office, but forgive me if I’m not over the moon about the ascendance of Philip Hammond.

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23 Responses to “Do we really need a foreign secretary with an anti-gay rights record?”

  1. swatnan

    … will go down like a bomb in the East and Africa and Catholic Americas and the less liberalised areas of Europe, and the Arctic and Antarctic Circles And Russia. They’ll put out the red carpet for him.

  2. rat man

    Terror, civilian bombing, north korea, syria, oil, etc.

    Yes, please make an issue of his anti gay past, I’m sure this won’t at all look like tunnel vision of LGBT issues.

  3. brad

    Tomorrow you might argue for more Muslims in the cabinet and remain discreetly quiet about gay rights.

  4. Henry Page

    Don’t you think the issues you list are somehow connected, looking at them through the prism of freedom and individual rights? Terrorism. North Korea, Syrian tyranny (either state or ISIS) – aren’t all of these deniers of individual freedoms? What do you expect of our Foreign Secretary, to be a nay-sayer to individual liberties like those he seeks to democratise? Some logic please.

  5. rat man

    What about the individual freedom to take drugs, what about assisted suicide, what If I want to sell my body.

    Denying people an individual freedom doesnt mean you can’t then lecture syria about human rights abuses.

    Logic please yourself.

  6. Henry Page

    It was your list not mine but some you mention mention are choices (prostitution, drugs) whereas being gay is NOT a choice. As for assisted suicide, nice point and maybe should be included. Much of what you say is habit/addiction/choice but sexuality is innate. More logic (again) please.

  7. John

    I’m sorry, but I don’t see your point. Are you objecting to the article because it highlights one issue rather than another, or are you complaining that the cabinet is being stocked with only one ‘minority’? (to whit women; not a minority yet treated as one)

  8. John

    We need to work on these issues, I quite agree; there are many issues of varying lethality and severity the world over, from the Americans wilfull ignorance of it’s homeless and unemployment record through to global warming, abuse of power (by both the rich and the influential) to multiple threats of death against a myriad of minorities (and some majorities) the world over.

    However the distressing thing about THIS article isn’t that we are not working on a problem as this might be a step backwards. It is unlikely, for instance, that a right-wing anti-LGBT minister is going to be that converned about the rights of trans people, so it’s fair to assume no action on that front.

    On top of which, these are the issues he’s vocal on. I wouldn’t be surprised to find he’s not exactly bestirred by womens rights or equality (though for that last one I’d be surprised if he was given he’s a Conservative).

  9. DebsnSoots

    It’s fairly straightforward from where I’m standing. People who do not embrace equality – for everyone – are not fit to be in government because our representatives have a duty to make sure that all of us are free to live a life free from persecution. It seems that several members of this new cabinet do not measure up in this respect…

  10. brad

    Single issue rights can conflict. Rights of ethnic minorities may not reconcile with equal rights for gays. Muslims campaigning against Islamophobia are not going to use anti-gay thertircto frunsich comparable examples of minority prejudice.

    In addition, a cabinet filled with minorities may be as right-wing as one filled with white guys.

    Would a a conservative African Brit in the Cabinet favouring corporal punishment in schools represent progress?

    Progress is in policies not in persons.

  11. DebsnSoots

    Surely the issue is not whether the cabinet should be made up of people from minority groups – but rather that those in the cabinet should embrace equality and make policy that reduces the harmful effects of prejudice?

  12. rat man

    What do you want, an exhaustive list of behaviours that are natural, or not a choice, but not socially acceptable nor legal.

    Not wanting gays to get have legal rights does not stop you lecturing other countries from blowing up their citizens or beating the living daylights out of gays.

    When you can point to him advocating the beating of gays, then you have a point.

  13. brad

    I agree with the sentiment of what you say but….

    I do not know what ’embracing equality’ means. Do you mean equal rights? For whom? On what basis? Is private health insurance compatible with your notion of equality? It is? Then one person receiving care while another does not is compatible with your notion of equality?

    Is great wealth compatible with your notion of equality? If not then how do you redistribute it? Or is one person sleeping in the street while another owns palaces compatible with your idea of equality?

    Are private schools compatible with equality? Must women women be allowed into mosques?

    Equality is not a simple notion.

  14. Henry Page

    Oh, I see, so you set the parameters for when I have a point? In your dreams. The Conservative (Nasty) Party has an all too recent history of actively discriminating against LGBT people.

    I for one would prefer Cabinet Ministers to be active supporters of equality on the basis of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. Not wanting gays to have legal rights does stop you lecturing other countries as they point to your own record and likely accuse you of double standards. How can a UK Foreign Secretary argue for legal rights for people in other countries when his/her record here is one at shows his belief in inequality?

    Sorry, but I have a point – whether you like or agree with it or not.

  15. snowstorm7

    Most Muslim MPs, including Tory Muslim Sajid Javid, voted in favour of same-sex marriage, so the conflict you’re perceiving exists more in your imagination than in the political facts.

  16. John

    So, again, what’s your point? That all is well?

    That equality and freedom mean different things to different people is not new. Whole branches of philosphical thought have been founded on this simple fact and were we trying to achieve Utopia it would be a relevant point.

    But we aren’t

    We are simply trying to make a system of equal oppurtunity. A society where the nature of your birth doesn’t restrict or broaden your future.

    As such, a minister who is homophobic represents a threat of regression when we still have a very long road ahead of us.

  17. DebsnSoots

    Equality, like any other construct, is more complicated the more you think about it – but the essence of it – that everyone should be treated equally – is simple enough. To me support (or not) for gay marriage is one of those concepts which defines equality. If you are for gay marriage you are for equality because you believe that couples who love each other should be able to make the same legal commitment to one another (and get the same legal benefits and recognition). If you are against it then you are against equality – no matter what your reasons – religious, ‘moral’, whatever. The bottom line is that you do not believe in the equal treatment of all human beings.
    Of course I agree that there are other subjects upon which the notion of equality is not as clear cut. Wealth is a good example. As a Socialist I believe in equal pay as a principle – but I realise that it is not so simple because whilst it is easy enough to argue that e.g. race and gender should not be a barrier to equal pay there are other things like ability and effort which are more arguable.
    The bottom line, for me, is that whilst we can debate these subjects – hopefully from a stance of making things as equal and fair as possible – someone who is clearly against equality on the more clear cut issues cannot be said to be embracing the notion of equality, and is not fit to be in government.

  18. sarntcrip

    THE tory party in government always represents regression to a time perceived as halcyon when in fact it was nothing of the kind they always want to go back not forward they always cut rather than invest any following government has to repair the damage, then is harangued for expenditure

  19. sarntcrip

    these days decent compassionate people are a minority, no sign of any in the cabinet now or whenever the tories have power majority or not, currently not

  20. sarntcrip

    where are the wheelchair users in cabinet?

  21. brad

    Do you advocate the abolition of aristocratic title? Of fee-paying schools? Your usage and your view of equality is so narrow.

  22. brad

    If you cannot say ”all” you are saying nothing. And what about ”mot Muslim leaders” or ”most Muslims in the UK”?

    The notion of ”equality” has been converted form a concept regarding the socio-economic and political rights of ALL into a flag of convenience for single issue groups. It appears now that the left believes we will have full equality across the planet when the global plutocracy has fair and equal representation of women, gays, lesbians and ethnic minorities.

  23. John

    Not at all; if that is your understanding of my argument I mis-stated my position. Let me try it this way
    Whatever your birth, or upbringing, you should be measured by your abilities and actions, not the circumstances of your birth.
    Aristocratic titles are fine; but they shouldn’t advantage you.
    Fee-paying schools are fine; but those who can’t afford them shouldn’t be disadvantaged. If you are intelligent enough for the school than you should have the ability to learn there.

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