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Dear Theresa, I hope you’re doing okay. Being Prime Minister must be an almost impossibly overwhelming task at the best of times, but I can’t help feeling that you’ve been caught in a perfect storm.
A Brexit result that defied predictions. A snap election result that also defied predictions. An unpredictable domestic political landscape, and a frankly mystifying international outlook. I’ve given up trying to predict anything, I’m a bit weary of being consistently proved wrong.
I’ll confess that I’m not your biggest fan. While our political outlook is probably fairly aligned, as a gay man I know that you don’t really ‘get’ me or my community. I don’t have to guess at that—you’ve demonstrated and articulated your socially—conservative position throughout your political career. You’re consistent, on that at least.
I’m not writing to try and change your mind about the value and worth and contribution of the LGBTQ community here in the UK and around the world. I accept that we’ll have to agree to disagree on that. I’m not expecting you to march in Pride parades, or tweet Happy Pride messages to a community that is feeling particularly vulnerable. It’s okay, it’s not your style, I get it. I don’t want a Prime Minister who forces themselves to emote publicly just because it would play well on social media.
Thankfully, a lot of the legislative battles in the UK have been won for the LGBTQ community. Anti-discrimination legislation in place? Done. Marriage Equality? Done. Even if you wanted to, there’s going to be few opportunities for you to stand in the way or to block LGBTQ people in the UK from living our lives. Right?
We’re good—except if you live in Northern Ireland.
Obviously you’re aware that the history of Northern Ireland is complex and contentious. There are lots of reasons why there’s variation in the legislative position in Northern Ireland, but the reality is that if you are LGBTQ and you live in Northern Ireland then you are worse off than anywhere else in the UK. Northern Ireland has been the slowest part of the UK to adopt key equality provisions such as legalising same-sex sexual activity, ending the ban on blood donations by men who have sex with men, and it remains the only region within the UK that continues to prohibit same-sex marriage.
One of the reasons that legislative protection for LGBTQ people in Northern Ireland has been difficult to achieve is because of the block of votes controlled by the socially conservative Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). The power-sharing arrangements in Northern Ireland effectively give the DUP a veto on any legislation they don’t support. For example, in 2015, legislation that would deliver marriage equality was passed by a majority of the Northern Ireland Assembly, but vetoed by the DUP.
But of course, you know all about the DUP. You know how they work. You’ve just entered into an agreement with them to help you form and maintain a government. That’s why I’m writing to you really.
I don’t speak for the LGBTQ people of Northern Ireland, but I wanted to add my voice to theirs to ask you to consider some of the potential implications of your partnership with the DUP.
What prospect is there for marriage equality in Northern Ireland if you have strengthened the DUP’s position in the political landscape? How can the wider LGBTQ community in the UK have confidence that you will act in their best interests if your king-makers are so defiantly homophobic?
One of the few things that you and I agree on is that I support your view that the UK needs some stability. It’s been a rough year for everyone, I don’t want another election, I don’t want more uncertainty, I want a chance to get to grips with where we stand right now and how we can make things better.
I appreciate that a desire to ‘make things better’ doesn’t necessarily follow a linear journey, there are inevitably ups and downs. But it seems impossible to believe that we can make things better for LGBTQ people when we do not yet have the same equalities and protections for LGBTQ people across the UK no matter where they live.
Prime Minister, I want you to hold on to power, I want you to try and navigate the UK through its current challenges, I want you to govern on behalf of everyone in the UK, for the good of everyone in the UK. Please do not sacrifice the LGBTQ community for political expediency. We are not a bargaining chip. We are non-negotiable. The DUP may not believe that we are worthy of equality, please demonstrate to the world that the UK government does.