UK Activists Rise up as Anti-LGBTQ Politicians Gain Power

After Theresa May's snap election failure, an anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion, anti-many-human-rights party holds the balance of power in the UK and, unsurprisingly, LGBTQ activists are having none of it.​

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Jun 16 2017, 6:45pm

Illustration via Aaron Barksdale.

As Theresa May stepped out of 10 Downing Street on April 18 to announce snap elections, many criticized her for attempting to rule with little to no opposition (polls had put her 20 comfortable points ahead of opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn).

Seven weeks later, on June 8, having failed to secure a majority, Theresa May has, in a last desperate attempt to remain in power, reached out to Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), an anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion, anti-many-human-rights party to form a coalition government.

What's at stake? When it comes to LGBTQ rights (and human rights in general), an enormous amount, not to mention serious implications for the fragile peace agreement between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

Today the DUP is holding the balance of power in the UK and, unsurprisingly, LGBTQ activists are having none of it.

In 2013, DUP MPs Gregory Campbell, David Simpson, Jim Shannon, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Ian Paisley Jr, Sammy Wilson and Nigel Dodds all voted against same sex marriage. On top of blocking equal marriage, the DUP put a bill forward in 2015 that proposed a permit discrimination against LGBTQ people by exempting those with "strongly held" religious beliefs from equality laws.

The legislative front is one thing, the alarming way DUP MPs and other Assembly Members have framed LGBT+ people is alarming too.

In 2007, Paisley Jr, who was re-elected last week, told Hot Press magazine he was "pretty repulsed" by gay people and lesbianism. Simpson, also re-elected, has in the past lobbied for creationism to be included in the school curriculum and controversially told the Commons during a discussion on same sex marriage that: "In the garden of Eden it was Adam and Eve, it wasn't Adam and Steve."



The list goes on: Tom Buchanan, a DUP Assembly Member, told children that homosexuality is "an abomination" and DUP politician Jim Wells and previous Northern Irish Health Minister declared that "the gay lobby is insatiable, they don't know when enough is enough" and went on to portray gay people as child abusers. "The facts show that you certainly don't bring a child up in a homosexual relationship. That child is far more likely to be abused or neglected," he declared, later apologizing.

"The DUP's stances on certain social issues make me wince every time I think about them."

And on: Iris Robinson, a former DUP MP described homosexuality as "disgusting, loathsome, nauseating, wicked and vile", as well as an "abomination" that could be "cured". Let's not forget the DUP led the controversial "Save Ulster from Sodomy" campaign in a bid to halt the decriminalization of homosexuality.

Today the DUP is holding the balance of power in the UK and, unsurprisingly, LGBTQ activists are having none of it.

Owen Jones, the socialist political writer and a fierce LGBTQ activist reminded his readers some saddening figures, "47 percent of LGBTQ people in Northern Ireland have reportedly considered suicide, while another quarter have attempted it."

But Jones didn't stop there. He has also organized a protest to be held Saturday in front of Whitehall, London. In a Facebook Live video Thursday night, Jones called the DUP bigots and homophobes. "They are anti-choice and climate change deniers," he argued, pleading young people to go out and protest. "The DUP will have huge power and influence...we have to take the streets and protests."

The idea of a government led by the DUP and the Conservatives is so abhorrent that it's not just the left-wing community that is protesting. Conservatives themselves have been quitting the party in opposition.

"The DUP's stances on certain social issues make me wince every time I think about them. If the Conservative party are truly allies of the LGBTQ community, why would they even think about associating themselves with the DUP? It makes my skin crawl," Emile Burgoyne, who plans to go to march, told VICE Impact.

"I am going to the march to make our voices heard and make the Conservative party aware that people in this country are opposed to a coalition with this fringe group," said Londoner Paul Beal to VICE Impact. "To think that the political decisions that will affect our country for generations to come will be brought about by this awful right wing quagmire is detestable."

The idea of a government led by the DUP and the Conservatives is so abhorrent that it's not just the left-wing community that is protesting. Conservatives themselves have been quitting the party in opposition.

Speaking to VICE Impact, James Wharton, a former soldier who threw his support behind the Conservative party in a column for Attitude prior to the general election, heavily criticized May's alignment with the DUP and blamed it for his decision to quit the party. "I think the Tories are selling their souls to the devil to be honest in doing something like this," said Wharton, who is openly gay.

In a letter to Wrexham Conservative Association, which he later shared on social media, Wharton wrote: "As an active LGBT activist, proud of the direction our party has taken since 2010 where LGBT rights are concerned, I'm upset to see Theresa May establish this arrangement with an organization so vehemently against gay and trans equality."

"Things I'm worried about?" Wharton explained to VICE Impact, "The DUP is responsible for blocking marriage equality. People will tell you that marriage equality exists in the UK, but it doesn't. It doesn't exist in Northern Ireland. A partnership with the DUP will guarantee that same sex marriage will not exist in Northern Ireland in the next five years."

"Beyond that we are about to come out of the European Union and turn our backs on the European Court of Human Rights and part of doing so means that we will be creating a new human rights based on British values. This will be completely undermined if Theresa May goes into partnership with the DUP who has a much lower view of equality than that of the rest of the country," Wharton pressed.

The DUP is not just homophobic. They oppose abortion rights.

Just last year, Arlene Foster, then leader of the DUP, vowed to prevent abortions being made available in Northern Ireland and told The Guardian: "I would not want abortion to be as freely available here as it is in England and don't support the extension of the 1967 act." DUP's Wilson, a climate change denier and previous environment minister for Northern Ireland, was re-elected as MP of East Antrim. Wilson previously told the Belfast Telegraph: "I don't care about CO2 emissions to be quite truthful because I don't think it's all that important." In 2014 he organized a meeting at the House of Commons to repeal the UK's Climate Change Act. Science denier Peter Lilley, David Davies and Richard Tol all attended. In fact, just this month he released an official statement saying President Trump's decision to pull out of the "totally flawed and pointless Paris Climate agreement" was a "very wise decision".

It comes as no surprise that a petition launched last week, calling on Theresa May to resign following her plans of forming a coalition with the DUP, has amassed more than 750 thousands signatures.

Saturday's protest against a DUP and Conservative coalition will take place at 2PM in Whitehall, London. In the meantime, concerned citizens stateside can support trans student rights, and other worthy LGBTQ causes via VICE Impact.