GT (UK) - - CONTENTS - WORDS wil­liam con­nolly

Henry Ford said that “com­ing to­gether is

a be­gin­ning; keep­ing to­gether is progress; work­ing to­gether is suc­cess”. It’s a quote that’s been ring­ing through our heads since Fe­bru­ary, when David Cameron an­nounced a ref­er­en­dum on whether the UK should re­main part of the Euro­pean Union.

You’ve prob­a­bly heard the word “Brexit” so much by now you’ll be start­ing to lose in­ter­est. But “stay woke”, as the kids are say­ing. This is one of the most im­por­tant de­ci­sions we’ll make as a na­tion in our life­time. And as card-car­ry­ing mem­bers of the LGBT com­mu­nity, the stakes are even higher.

Equal­ity in Europe isn’t any­thing new, of course, and most peo­ple would agree that some of the safest places for LGBT peo­ple are un­der the EU’s um­brella. All mem­ber states are re­quired to keep in line with the Euro­pean Con­ven­tion on Hu­man Rights, which en­sures things like LGBT em­ploy­ment dis­crim­i­na­tion and re­jec­tion from the mil­i­tary re­main il­le­gal. It’s ba­si­cally a safety net that pro­tects us from a fu­ture govern­ment re­scind­ing any of the pro­gres­sive steps we’ve made.

But the big ques­tion we’ve got to ask our­selves is whether or not LGBT life in the UK

“The EU and the Euro­pean Court of Hu­man Rights have pro­tected our rights at work, guar­an­teed paid ma­ter­nity and pa­ter­nity pay, and in­sisted on LGBT peo­ple be­ing al­lowed to serve in the mil­i­tary,” ex­plains Labour MP Chris Bryant, the Shadow Leader of the House of Com­mons.

But it’s a be­lief not shared by Adam Lake, di­rec­tor of the pro-Brexit LGBT group Out and Proud – who we’re in­clined to add aren’t

“You can’t at­tribute LGBT equal­ity to EU mem­ber­ship,” Alex tells us. “Things have got­ten bet­ter in this coun­try be­cause of our own pro­gres­sion through Par­lia­ment. It isn’t be­cause you’ve got Lithua­nia, Es­to­nia and, sadly, a lot of other EU mem­ber states where equal­ity sim­ply isn’t there.”

equal­ity in coun­tries with closed minds? The an­swer is sim­ple: pol­i­tics. And with the UK of­ten serv­ing as a coun­ter­bal­ance with France over po­lit­i­cal de­bate, our de­par­ture could leave the EU split in its ap­proach to many is­sues, re­lat­ing to equal­ity laws and fund­ing.

And, as Labour MP Ben Brad­shaw ex­plains to us, the power of the EU should never be un­der­es­ti­mated: “The EU is an im­por­tant force for equal­ity and hu­man rights in Europe it­self, and else­where. A con­di­tion of mem­ber­ship is re­spect for hu­man rights and equal­ity. This has forced new and ap­pli­cant mem­ber states to im­prove rad­i­cally their equal­ity leg­is­la­tion and treat­ment of LGBT peo­ple.”

the EU even want the UK to re­main? Af­ter all, we don’t use the Euro, the UK cur­rently doesn’t want to con­trib­ute to fu­ture eu­ro­zone bailouts, and we’re push­ing for a veto over EU leg­is­la­tion we dis­agree with in a bid to curb mi­gra­tion. The UK’s de­par­ture may even set a prece­dent and en­cour­age the other 27 states to deal with their per­sonal de­mands alone.

It’s a con­cern­ing prospect for Si­mon Mill­son, of the LGBT for Europe group.

“We’ve fought hard over the past 50 years to trans­form the lives of mil­lions of LGBT peo­ple in Bri­tain and across the EU,” he says. “Let’s not risk what we’ve achieved to­gether.”

We shouldn’t for­get that EU in­sti­tu­tions aren’t pow­er­less, and that their de­ci­sions change the lives of more than 500 mil­lion

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