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LGBT London Pride: No to homophobia
"You can be gay behind closed doors, you can be heterosexual behind closed doors, but you don't bring it onto the streets, demanding more rights for it." So says Richard Barnbrook, a member of the racist and homophobic British National Party (BNP).
Greg Randall, Socialist Party LGBT group convenor
When 60% of lesbian and gay school students experience homophobic bullying and half of those contemplate killing themselves as a result, it is clear to most people that there is a serious need for a fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people's rights. Barnbrook's remarks make the situation worse.
London LGBT Pride takes place on 5 July following the May local elections in which Barnbrook, on behalf of the far-right BNP, won a seat on the London assembly. In a 2003 article in the BNP's Identity magazine, party leader Nick Griffin referred to homosexuality as a "form of behavioural deviancy" that "needs to be pushed firmly back into the closet". The BNP seeks to divide us by pushing racism and homophobia. When ideas like this gain currency, anti-gay violence follows behind.
The BNP needs to be defeated. But this needs a campaign, not just words of condemnation. An alternative has to be posed. In the absence of a workers' party, the establishment parties on local councils and in government have been pushing through cuts. By pretending to stand for 'ordinary Londoners', by which it means white people, the BNP have gained an electoral foothold.
Where elected, the record of BNP councillors does not live up to their anti-establishment, even anti-privatisation rhetoric. In Barking and Dagenham, Barnbrook put forward a budget based on massive cuts to public services. They offer no solution to the problems we face - be it housing, health or homophobia.
The fight to defend and improve public services is part of the fight for LGBT rights on other accounts, apart from that of opposing the BNP. NHS cuts affect HIV/AIDS services. The housing crisis affects LGBT people trying to find a safe place to live. These cuts, carried out by a New Labour government, and Labour, Liberal and Tory councils, show that we cannot rely on politicians tied to big business to defend our services. Nor can we rely on them against homophobia.
Boris the bigot
The new Tory mayor of London, Boris Johnson has written articles in support of Section 28, a Tory act from 1988 which effectively stopped council funding of books, plays, leaflets, films or any other material showing gay relationships as normal. During the mayoral election in May he refused to give clear answers to the Independent journalist Johann Hari on funding for gay and lesbian outreach workers, who seek to help suicidal LGBT teenagers.
The money is there in society to fund decent services for everyone - but it gets squandered by the capitalist politicians. Billions of pounds have been wasted on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on nuclear weapons and on paying private companies to run our services into the ground through PFI schemes. How far would that go in the NHS or to provide decent housing?
New Labour tries to claim credit for law reforms which have brought about legal equality, on paper, for LGB (but not transgender) people. But they were forced into these by pressure from campaigners. Discrimination on the grounds of sexuality was only outlawed after ten years in power! How far this will go to change things is yet to be seen. Forty years after the Equal Pay Act women are still earning 17% less than men on average.
Law reforms don't abolish homophobia; for that we need to build a more equal society. With Labour, Tories and Lib Dems promoting the policies of division and inequality at a time of mounting economic problems, there is a gap in politics for a party that will stand for working-class people by campaigning against cuts and privatisation. Such a party could also give a voice to disenfranchised members of the LGBT communities and cut across the growth in the BNP's support.
The Socialist Party opposes homophobia and stands up for LGBT rights and against all forms of discrimination. Members of the Socialist Party LGBT group will be campaigning at London Pride against the homophobic BNP and all who seek to divide us, and for a new party. If you agree with us then join us! Contact Manny at [email protected] or phone 020 8988 8777 for more information about the Socialist Party LGBT group.
In The Socialist 2 July 2008:
Socialist Party campaigns
Socialist Party news and analysis
National Shop Stewards Network
Campaign for a New Workers Party
Socialist Party LGBT
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news