The speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, yesterday formally launched a new cross-party group to champion intrenational LGBTI equality and rights.
The newly formed All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Global LGBTI Rights is the first of its kind, and includes members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
The APPG will take on the work of the Parliamentary Friends of the Kaleidoscope Trust, which has been chaired by Crispin Blunt MP. It aims to provide a platform for parliamentarians and organisations across the public, private and third sector to work together to champion LGBTI rights – while its title omits reference to intersex issues, the group is inclusive of intersex people and is seeking to work closely with them on key issues.
While focusing primarily on international LGBTI rights, the APPG has also decided to include domestic issues within its remit.
At a lunchtime reception held at Speaker’s House in the Commons, Bercow, who is a patron of the group, referred to the “relentless passion and moral courage” required to combat LGBTI oppression.
“These are recurrent and pervasive threats in places as near as Russia,” he said. “As long as it is unsafe for an LGBT person to be themselves, then the work of this group must continue. For this isn’t just a cause of equality for LGBT people, it is for all. It’s not just LGBT people demeaned and dehumanised – it scars all of us.”
Chair of the APPG, Nick Herbert MP, announced the group’s intention to hold an inquiry into international LGBT rights abuses, claiming such a move would represent an “ambitious first foray in order to understand the issues before we drill down and address them”. He insisted that the inquiry would be a thorough investigation, involving written and verbal testimony from various individuals and organisations.
He also called for the public to become involved with the APPG’s work: “We want civil society to engage with us,” he said. “It will enable you to have your say…to speak on behalf of those against whom terrible injustices are being done”.
Guests at the launch included a number of MPs as well as several leaders from the LGBTI community and representatives of groups such as UK Black Pride, Justice for Gay Africans, the Kaleidoscope Trust, the UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group, Stonewall, and the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
Lord Cashman, Labour’s special envoy on LGBT rights, told the guests that history was being made: “It’s an historic day. Thirty years ago when we started lobbying cross-party I never thought we would be where we are. This happens because courageous women and men step out from the crowd and give a voice to the voiceless. Human rights and civil liberties need to be the top priority of every party that takes itself seriously.”
The SNPs Stewart McDonald, the “out” MP for Glasgow South who is also a vice-chair of the APPG, said: “I am very pleased to [serve] as vice chair of the APPG on Global LGBT Rights. This group has been founded at a crucial time. Although in the UK LGBT rights have advanced rapidly in recent years, the opposite is true in many other countries around the world.