General Election fever is in full-swing. Different areas of society are being urged, swayed and pleaded with to vote a certain way. With that in mind, who should the LGBT+ citizens of the United Kingdom be voting for next month? Labour? The Lib Dems? The Greens? The major seven UK parties are all very different on their vision for the next steps in LGBT+ equality and here's why;
The en vogue parties in the LGBT+ community right now are without a doubt the Labour party and the Green party, with the latter soaring in support from gay, bisexual and transgender people. In fact, just this week Peter Tatchell called out for us to vote Green next month to further the agenda of equality. Now, I have looked at the Green party manifesto and everything they want to do for the LGBT+ community is nice, fluffy and genuinely quite lovely, but too typically of them - vapid. There is very little substance to what they specifically would do to help those in the LGBT+ community. Bar misleading claims that Caroline Lucas was the one that drove the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act through the last parliament, the Greens actually have a weak case for the gay vote.
The Labour party are also being touted as champions of LGBT+ rights, despite failing to place Marriage Equality in their 2010 manifesto and even this year their offer is very slim too, only outlining an LGBT Rights Envoy to promote human rights internationally - a good idea but ultimately, it's not a lot. Plaid Cymru make a positive contribution in their manifesto and are probably the second best choice in this election - with a clear strategy to tackle specific acts of LGBT+ discrimination in many different areas. Their nationalist counterparts the SNP are surprisingly quiet on the subject. In spite of being on the social left; they offer nothing more than an a mirror of Labour's international ambassador plan. Unsurprisingly, the Conservatives, who probably think the work for LGBT+ equality is done with the passing of same-sex marriage under Cameron's premiership, offer absolutely nothing specific in their manifesto. UKIP are similarly mute, they haven't even pledged to increase homosexual activity during drought season. Apparently Farage's "people's army" is "not driven by the needs of differing special interests groups". I guess his is a heterosexual people's army instead.
Is this meagre choice really the best LGBT+ citizens can hope for from the next election? In my view, the answer is no. The real party for LGBT+ people is still plugging away and providing sound basis for a progression in equal rights - and they are the Liberal Democrats. We're told we're not allowed to trust my party - we're simply poisonous in the media realms - not to be entertained on the back of one broken pledge, a mistake no other party has ever made. But just hear me out. In the Coalition government, the Lib Dems succeeded in implementing marriage equality, almost solely on the back of the pluck from former MP Lynne Featherstone. And this is just one example in a long, long history of the Lib Dems catering for LGBT+ needs. The preceding Liberal party was the first to introduce a gay rights section for policy, while the Lib Dems have actively supported drives to make the age of consent equivalent, protect LGBT+ asylum seekers from unjust criminal charges abroad and oppose the ban on teachers being allowed to disclose their sexuality.
Thankfully, the Liberal Democrats haven't stopped there and the party has pledged even more for LGBT+ citizens in their 2015 manifesto. The Lib Dems want to extend the rights of co-habiting heterosexual couples to homosexual ones, include all relationships in qualification for Civil Partnerships, crack down on homophobic bullying in schools, make homophobic football chanting a criminal offence like racist chanting is, permit humanist weddings, seek to end the disgraceful and unnecessary bans on blood donation for MSM, pardon those convicted of historical homosexual 'offences', and they even match the SNP and Labour's pledge for an appointed international gay rights advocate - and in greater detail too. For gender non-confirming people, the party have pledged to introduce "X" gender markers on passports and eliminate the need for a gender dysphoria diagnosis to acquire legal gender recognition.
Equal rights for LGBT+ citizens is one of, if not my biggest passion in politics and the Liberal Democrats are simply streets ahead in this vicinity and have been for a long long time. I wouldn't say this if I didn't mean it and I wouldn't have joined a party that didn't put the drive for LGBT+ equality at the heart of their policy making. If you really want a conscious, caring, allied voice for non-heterosexuals in government for the next five years then don't vote Green, don't vote Labour, vote Liberal Democrat.