Kevin Henry, 31 July 2009
This year marks an important fortieth anniversary for all who support equality for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) community.
On 28 June 1969 the police raided the Stonewall Inn in New York. This in of itself was not unusual. This time however LGBT people fought back against the police over two nights of rioting. After the Stonewall riots those involved in fighting police harassment organised the Gay Liberation Front which united with socialist, anti-war, anti-racist and trade union activists in the fight for liberation including bravely organising the first gay pride events.
The struggle for equality born out of Stonewall has won important rights such as the legalisation of homosexuality, anti-discrimination laws and civil partnership. However we are still a long way off equality. Internationally many viciously homophobic regimes still exist and rights previously won are under attack. In 82 countries, homosexuality is still a criminal offence with seven carrying the death penalty, including Western supported governments such as Nigeria, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. In Russia and some Eastern European countries, the right of LGBT communities to organise has been attacked with Pride demonstrations banned and coming under attacked from police and fascist groups.
Unite against the Bigots
In Northern Ireland, the LGBT community still has to fight against homophobia. In a recent survey carried out among the Irish LGBT community, 80% said they have been verbally abused due to their sexual orientation and 40% have been physically attacked.
Iris Robinson’s comments last year, claiming that homosexuality is an "abomination," are still raw in the minds of many people and expose the bigoted attitudes of many politicians who supported her views.
More worryingly the election in England of two members of the BNP, a far right party with a fascist core, to the European Parliament poses a threat to the LGBT community. Not only does the BNP support the re-criminalisation of homosexuality, but it gives confidence to bigoted thugs to attack those they hate, including gays and lesbians.
The Socialist Party played a leading role in organising protests of local residents after racist attacks on Romanians on the Lisburn Road in Belfast. We believe it is important to isolate bigoted thugs who wish to make scapegoats of the most “vulnerable” in our community including the use of “gay bashing”.
We won’t pay for the bosses’ crisis
We also need to take on the social problems that are allowing these bigots to grow, such as the lack of jobs and housing and the massive attacks on our public services. Big business and the sectarian politicians in Stormont are determined to make working class people pay for an economic crisis that was created not by them but by rich bankers, speculators and politicians who were happy to gamble away our future.
To do this they will attempt to divide workers in order to weaken opposition to their attacks, including possibly using homophobic legislation. In the 1980’s, Thatcher’s government introduced “Section 28” which banned local authorities from "intentionally promoting homosexuality" or recognising lesbian and gay relationships as "a pretended family relationship". This was used to undermine not only gay rights but to attack social housing and sack council workers. It was only because of a mass campaign that this was repealed in 2000. The Southern Irish government has also introduced reactionary legislation, like the blasphemy laws which could be used to attack socialist, trade unionist and gay rights activists.
Pride not Profit
This makes the tradition of Stonewall all the more important and shows that LGBT people need to organise politically to defend and extend their rights. Pride should be an event where the attacks from big business and their political parties are opposed, with demands for real equality rather than a march which acts as a parade of advertisements for companies that see the LGBT community as a market.
The Socialist Party stands for the unity of workers and young people against the attempts by big business and right wing politicians to make us pay for the capitalist crisis. We believe it is necessary to build a new party for working class people that can take up the issue of homophobia as well as sexism and racism. It is clear that capitalism is incapable of providing a decent standard of living for working class people. We need to fight for a socialist society which can provide full rights including full marriage and adoption rights for LGBT people. If you agree with us join us today!
Stand against homophobic bigotry
Kevin Henry 18 June 2008
"Homosexuality is not natural. My Christian beliefs tell me that it is an abomination and that is very clear.
"I have a very lovely psychiatrist who works with me in my offices and his Christian background is that he tries to help homosexuals - trying to turn away from what they are engaged in. I'm happy to put any homosexual in touch with this gentleman and I have met people who have turned around and become heterosexuals."
- Iris Robinson MP MLA (DUP)
Iris Robinson’s recent homophobic remarks, in which she described homosexuality as an “abomination” and said gay people could be turned into heterosexuals through counselling, exposed again the bigoted nature of DUP politicians. But more importantly it has also drawn attention to the discrimination that the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered) community still face in Northern Ireland.
Of course this is not the first time highflying DUP members have made homophobic remarks. Last year, Ian Paisley Junior referred to homosexuals as being “repulsive”.Robinson’s comments are even more disturbing in that they were said in connection with a homophobic attack on a gay man who was “left for dead” in Co. Antrim. According to the PSNI, reported homophobic attacks are sharply increasing. Robinson’s remarks have caused those in the LGBT community to feel more fearful of violent homophobic gangs who will feel encouraged by the MP’s message.
The comments also play on the vulnerability of individuals who for certain reasons, like religious background, feel uncomfortable coming out. Increasingly figures, like Robinson, on the Christian right have been advancing the idea that there is a “cure to being gay”. This takes a particularly brutal form in America where shock therapy is being used.
Politicians from the other main parties have been hesitant to speak out against Robinson’s comments. Sinn Fein have used the issue as part of a tit for tat point scoring with the DUP. The Alliance Party, while criticising her comments, however recently showed that they are not immune from homophobia when their three councillors in Lisburn voted to ban same sex civil partnership ceremonies in council buildings.
Also, there is very little provision for proper education in school on issues of sexuality because it does not fit the needs of big business which education is increasingly geared towards. This in particular contributes to the levels of homophobic bullying.
Those gay rights and support groups who are rightly repulsed by Robinson’s words have called for her resignation, for reform within the DUP and even the “outing” of gay DUP members as a means of reforming the DUP’s reactionary attitudes. Unfortunately this is a mistaken approach to fighting for equality. Homophobia is ultimately rooted in the capitalist system as a means of dividing workers and providing a scapegoat for capitalism’s failures. What is really needed is a mass movement linked with the broader struggles of workers to fight for a decent standard of living for all and freedom of consenting adults to have whatever relationship they wish (including marriage) without fear of been considered inferior or isolated.
Only in a socialist society can LGBT people be truly liberated from inequality and discrimination.The Socialist Party has a proud record of fighting against homophobia and for workers unity. This includes organising against fascist groups who spread racist and homophobic material and are responsible for violent attacks. We also have a history of having a lively contingent on Gay Pride events and campaigning against homophobia. The sections of the Committee for a Workers International, which the Socialist Party is affiliated to, campaign for full rights for LGBT people in many countries and have been involved in organising defence against attacks from the far-right on Gay Pride events in Eastern Europe. If you agree that there needs to be a fightback against homophobia and capitalism, and want to fight for a socialist future, then join us today!