Several hundred lesbian and gay workers are gathering in central London over the next two days to debate a series of key equality issues at the annual TUC Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender conference.
Delegates attending the event at the TUC’s Congress House HQ will hear speeches from TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber, Commission for Equality and Human Rights Chair Trevor Phillips and MP Angela Eagle.
Motions to be discussed by delegates include the portrayal of lesbian and gay people in the media, the monitoring of sexuality in the workplace and the potential conflict between religious belief and sexual orientation.
Addressing the conference today (Thursday), TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: ‘Sometimes it’s easy to forget just how far we’ve come in the past decade. Ten years ago, gay rights were seen as a minority pursuit – now they’re part of the political mainstream. Ten years ago, the debate was about Section 28 – now we celebrate civil partnerships. And ten years ago, discrimination against the gay community in the provision of goods and services was quite legal – now, at long last, it has been outlawed.
‘But as we celebrate that progress, we cannot afford to relax our guard. This is not the time for us to take of eye of the ball. Despite all the legal gains – despite our largely liberal, tolerant society – the ugly scar of homophobia continues to blight the lives of so many people in your community. The young student bullied at college, the lesbian taunted about her sexuality, the gay couple hounded from their home.
‘However welcome they may be, changes on the statute book count for little unless they are matched by a corresponding change in attitudes. Think about our workplaces. We know from our own research that four in ten LGBT workers have faced abuse at work because of their sexuality.
‘And let’s not forget the challenges faced by LGBT people worldwide. From the casual murder of gay men in Jamaica to state-sponsored persecution in Iran, from the alarming rise in homophobia in Russia to the death squads of Iraq, members of your community are under attack as never before. None of us can afford to turn a blind eye – an injury to one is an injury to all. But where there is discrimination, unions will seek to remove it. Where there is inequality, we will tackle it. And where there is injustice, we will wage war on it.’