On the Ukip website, it states "As a libertarian party, we are entirely at ease with their (LGBTI community) choice and wish all of them well." I question the appropriateness of this folksy language and the implication that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice, particularly considering that LGBTI citizens continue to be the target of around 100 hate crimes per week. But even if it was well intentioned, why then do we consistently hear voices from within the party spouting homophobic comments? This week's online response to a Ukip councillor's claim that same-sex marriage was to blame for flooding, that has seen everything from parody shipping forecasts to the creation of the Ukip weather Twitter account, shows that UKIP's hollow message on LGBTI rights is not fooling anyone.
The truth is, despite the party proclaiming to be "accepting" of the LGBTI community, Ukip's commitment to equality has been questioned ever since the former Ukip Youth Chairman Olly Neville was sacked for supporting same-sex marriage. Whether it's placing blame for adverse weather or being "baffled" by Britain's acceptance of homosexuality, beneath the veneer of tolerance lies countless examples of bigoted views on LGBTI issues that UKIP simply don't want us to hear.
Indeed, shining a light on the voting record of Ukip in the European Parliament shows that the party has little concern for the LGBTI community. Here are just five examples of opportunities Ukip had to stand up for LGBTI rights where they shamefully failed to deliver:
• Proposal for equal property rights for all dual nationality couples, regardless of sexuality: Ukip voted against
• New EU-Russia Agreement including promotion of LGBTI rights: Ukip voted against
• Report on Human rights including sexual orientation and gender identity: Ukip voted against
• Resolution calling for protection LGBTI rights in Lithuania and Russia: Ukip abstained
• New asylum rules including gender identity as a ground for persecution: Ukip abstained.
Nigel Farage can try and pull the wool over our eyes with his usual rhetoric, but Ukip's voting record tells us all we need to know about how Ukip feels on the issue of LGBTI rights and equality. For pro-equality campaigners such as myself, this cannot be allowed to go unchallenged. Ukip has absolutely no intention of standing up for persecuted sexual minorities. It's time that they stopped pretending to.
So while Ukip MEPs continue to ignore the injustices LGBTI citizens face, my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I will keep putting the promotion of LGBTI rights at the heart of our work in the European Parliament. As long as 55% of LGBTI young people at school in the UK continue to be bullied because of their sexuality, and as long as LGBTI citizens continue to be the target of hate and repression across Europe and the world, we must continue to speak out. Ultimately, standing up for equality is about more than a footnote on the back of a party manifesto leaflet or the promise of an interview with Pink news; it's about taking action and demanding change.
Baroness Sarah Ludford is Liberal Democrat MEP for London and vice-president of LGBT+ Liberal Democrats
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