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