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.Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.