The phrase ‘gay Tory’ simply makes no sense. This is not because it juxtaposes two groups whose interests are as far apart as Iran and the US, but because it suggests that many gay people are shamefully ignorant of their party’s credentials as one which tried to block the repeal of section 28 and one where MPs view gay marriage as more terrifying than European integration.
I shudder to think that people who vote thinking that the Tories offer them a better deal economically (although this is untrue) are voting against their own self-interest.
The Tories have given the job of Women and Equalities Minister to Maria Miller, a woman who voted in favour of Nadine Dorries’ attempt to limit abortion and force women to have the ‘impartial’ counseling of church groups, and who has voted against every single bit of legislation on gay rights that Labour introduced- when she bothered to turn up, that is.
If it were up to her (until her recent and miraculous U-turn, à la Theresa May), gay people wouldn’t be able to adopt and wouldn’t be covered under the Equalities Act. In fact, until last week, she’d been silent on gay marriage.
Many gay people like to think that the drive for equality is over, that Gay Pride is redundant and everything has been achieved. They are wrong. The civil rights campaign is not over. It can’t be: anyone who has canvassed in some of the UK’s poorest housing estates or has dealt with MPs casework and seen the effects of cuts to local services, of cuts to Citizens Advice bureaux, cuts to EMA and Building Schools For The Future, will know that.
We must enfranchise the young, those unable to afford £9,000 tuition fees or even the bus journey to school. We must enfranchise the unemployed, those on benefits, bringing them into society and giving them the chance to succeed. This is the new frontier for those who have campaigned for gay rights in the past.
Yet the thinking espoused by some gay people now defies logic. A society that works together is a society that enriches those at the top as well as those at the bottom. Just as gay people can now work without fear of discrimination, no one should allow disabled workers at Remploy to face unemployment. Long excluded from many workplaces, gay people should not sit by and allow women to lose their independence because of cuts to children’s services.
Gay people might not have to worry about many of these issues, but they, like everyone in the UK, benefitted directly from Labour’s attempts to make society richer. If we ignore the fact that Labour enabled gay people not to be discriminated at school by repealing the Tory section 28 and equalizing the age of consent, that Labour allowed gay people to defend their country openly for the first time, Labour’s record is much deeper. In fact, by sharing the fruits of economic development with all, between 1998 and 2011, not only did productivity per hour grow faster than the rest of Europe, but real disposable income per capita rose faster than in the Europe and in the US.
Equality brings riches and as long as the Government believes that some people deserve unfair treatment because they are ‘plebs’, Britain will continue its social as well as economic decline.
So, this is the time for gay people to stand together, not just with other gay people, but side by side with people who are still disenfranchised: single mothers, young people, the unemployed, the disabled, and millions more. People, in short, whom the Tories have kept at arms length.
Alex Glasner is a Young Fabians member