Nick Clegg this morning talking in The Independent goes further than any other leader ever has to knock out the last few areas of inequality for the gay community. He's basically saying enough of 'equal but different' why can't we just be equal.
First up Nick calls for all schools to adopt anti-homophobia bullying policies and to teach that homosexuality exists and is normal. This he wants to apply even to faith schools. Many people grow up in a faith community feeling they are isolated, the feelings that they are going through are not something they can share with teachers, fellow pupils or whatever because of the way that homosexuality is treated. It can, and does, lead to depression in a number of people. Of course such feeling are not exclusive to such an school environment, but they do accentuate it in a faith school environment. At least having access to information and feeling more able to talk about it is something that people who actually are of that faith and find themselves to be gay need as much as every other teenager in our country.
As for protection from homophobic bullying, not every child has the opportunity long after the bullying ceases to go up to the bully and say, "You know you were right". To looks of confusion from the bully like I did a few years back.
Nick is calling for the same marital rights for gay men and women as straight couples. The Tories appear to be wanting to tinker around the edges of this, acknowledge it in the tax code but not much else. David Cameron talked earlier this week about extending the 'marriage' allowance to include 'civil partnerships' Nick wants to make those unions marriage. By full marital rights Nick is also saying that those that want a same sex marriage to be solemnised within a faith may do so if they find a clergyman or woman willing to do so. He's not forcing the churches, mosques, synagogues or whatever to all carry out such ceremonies merely allowing those who are inclined the option of being involved in such a ceremony where currently they are banned.
On this issue Nick has said:
"If we don’t want to discriminate, why do we make differences in language? Language is a hugely important signifier of how we segment society and how you seek to create differences between people. Since we don’t want to make differences on this and the law has moved a great deal to do that, we should be linguistically the same too."
As I said at Scottish Spring Conference last year, there is fallacy in the Blood Transfusion Services definition of "risky" sexual behaviour of those who donate. It isn't actually based on behaviour it is based on a categorisation of an entire section of the population, ignoring more risky sexual practitioners in the straight community over the safer members of the gay one. Recently I read another article about the shortage of O negative blood as a result of the recent cold weather, crying out for donors to come forward. My O neg of course could have helped if they'd only let me.
Currently there is no recognition that someone fleeing their country for sexual persecution can seek asylum in this country. We have sent back young men to some countries where they face certain death for admitting they are gay. We offer such protection for those who are politically or religiously persecuted. These people if they are faced with eminent danger should they be returned home will often face a favourable hearing for their case for asylum.
This of course is not about immigration but offering help to those who face persecution. Even the Christians would have to own up that Jesus told them to help those who face persecution, he didn't put any provisos unto that appeal.
On the issue of asylum seekers Nick added:
"It's a moral stain on our collective consciousnesses. The public debate has transformed asylum seekers into threats rather than human beings."
He said Lib Dem policy would be that Britain should provide sanctuary to those fleeing persecution because of their sexual orientation:
"It’s not just me that says this, it’s international law that says it."
For those that do not know Uganda are currently debating a new policy that will lock up anyone involved in homosexual practices for live. Any who are HIV positive or who have AIDS face summary execution. Considering the rate of HIV infection on the African continent this could well turn into a cull. After all the use of HIV may well turn into the only 'evidence' that homosexual activity took place.
As with the asylum regulations above this is something we could not condone. While most of those asylum seekers come from countries where we may well have little sway with sanctions, Uganda is part of the Commonwealth and we have in the past excluded such members for taking actions against the spirit of the Commonwealth.
Speaking of the Conservative positioning on gay issues Nick said:
"He [David Cameron] is a confection. I don’t really know what he believes in. I don’t know what his convictions are and the reason is because they keep changing – and they seem to change for convenience. So when it mattered, when people went through the lobby to vote on Section 28, his convictions were on the wrong side. Suddenly they’ve changed and we get an apology!"
Mr Clegg questioned the Tory leader’s record of supporting gay equality, highlighting how Mr Cameron voted against the repeal of Section 28 (he last year apologised for the Tories’ introduction of Section 28) and how he has allied his party with right-wing anti-gay groups in Europe.
"The surveys of a lot of the next generation of Conservative MPs show massive residue of indifference at best, prejudice at worst [to the subject of gay rights]."
Nick is also being interviewed in the February edition of Attitude magazine which is out this week. But as I haven't seen that article a separate blog entry will probably follow.