When Meg Munn, the deputy minister for women and equality, addressed the TUC’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender conference on 30 June/ 1 July, she was asked repeatedly why the government did not act to ensure that equalities legislation comprehensively protected all minority groups.
Her reply was that the government knew that these inequalities in protection existed and was planning a review. It begged the question of why the government had introduced some of them in the first place.
The proposed Equality Bill includes discrimination on the grounds of religion or belief. LGBT conference decided to send to TUC congress a motion calling for the TUC to lobby government to amend the bill to include discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
The conference called for minority groups to work together; and, in the debate on fascism, one speaker pointed out that we also need to consider the concerns of “majority” white working class people who are considering voting for the BNP.
There was a recurring idea at the conference that there should not be a “hierarchy of oppression”. Prejudice against one minority group should not be regarded as more or less important than that against another.
A visitor from the National Union of Students told us he felt more discriminated against as a Muslim than as a gay man, and he welcomes the new law against “incitement to religious hatred”. Most of the other speakers were against the new legislation, though for religious freedom.
The conference passed a couple of motions on international campaigns, calling for solidarity with groups such as the Jamaican lesbian/gay rights group J-Flag, and for asylum seekers fleeing homophobic cultures to be given leave to stay.
All the motions were supported by the TUC’s LGBT committee, except for one calling for democratisation of the TUC equality seats. The motion proposed the seats be elected by the equalities conferences instead of by Congress (which means a carve up by the largest unions). That motion went through with a large majority.
There were fewer nominations to the LGBT committee than places. The TUC LGBT conference is still not as large as it should be. But the numbers of delegates and their diversity is increasing year on year.