In protest of the Tory-DUP coalition deal, a change.org petition emerged. The petition calls for organisers of London Pride to remove Conservative representation from the march. It has since closed, amassing only 643 supporters.
The message of the petition, started by a Rob Agnew, claims that “Their (Conservative) march does not represent inclusivity, diversity or empowerment.”. The message also states “It represents oppression, control and a smug acknowledgment(sic) of their success at the continuing marginalisation of the LGBTQIAA communities and its history.”.
James Holt, Director of Comms for London pride, spoke on The Times Red Box Podcast regarding this issue. He spoke about how groups attending the march should “abide by the ideals” of Pride. Considering the mission of London Pride, reasons to exclude LGBT+ Conservatives from marching appear to be poorly justified knee-jerk reactions to something those attending are not responsible for.
Stewart McDonald MP (Scottish National Party) also appeared on the podcast. He stated that he believed nervousness over the deal was being “amplified by social media”. Further quotes include “I suspect there won’t be any receding of gay rights” and “I don’t think it will come to gay rights being rolled back”. As it appears at present, his comments ring true. In Northern Ireland, support for marriage equality has been growing (up to 70% between 2015 and 2016). LGBT+ activists there also continue to push for marriage equality.
Choose your enemies wisely
The Conservative Party, like any other party, is not a hive mind. As such, there isn’t unanimous agreement within the party over the DUP coalition deal. Whilst the DUP remains, by large, an opponent of LGBT+ equality, the Tories are not the same. We shouldn’t forget that the Conservative Party in 2013 played a role in legalising same-sex marriage. The bill originated from then Liberal Democrat MP Lynne Featherstone, but was bolstered by prominent Conservatives despite opposition within the party.
The Conservative-DUP deal does not give the DUP a free pass in opposing equality in Northern Ireland. As such, it is unfair to suggest that LGBT+ Conservatives attending pride represent oppression and marginalisation. There are plenty of Tories standing up for equality who deserve to be at Pride as much as anybody else.
LGBT+ Conservatives are not the first to face such opposition. In 2015, LGBT+ members of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) were banned from London Pride following “safety concerns” – which comes across as a peculiar reason. Prior to this ban, there was little indication of threats to the safety of others attending from these individuals.
Intolerance from within
Some might believe that to be LGBT+ and a Tory implies a level of privilege – that only the well off would be one. The reality isn’t so black & white. Such attitude often overlooks personal issues, such as mental health and coming out. It also overlooks the fact that there is a huge variety of reasons an individual would support or vote for a party. Individuals with other such issues struggle enough already without ostracisation from their own community. Unless their group advocates for LGBT+ discrimination, or advocate such themselves, there is insufficient reason to exclude them from Pride.
The exclusion of LGBT+ individuals and allies, especially over difference in political party, diminishes the meaning of Pride. The LGBT+ Community should be unified. We should focus our opposition against those who actively oppose our rights.