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Happy new year and best wishes for 2019!

2019 is a year of anniversaries. It’s the 20th anniversary of the Scottish Government and Parliament, which were founded on the principle of equal opportunities for all.

February is the 50th anniversary of the formation of Scotland’s first gay rights group, Scottish Minorities Group, which, with others, began a social and legal revolution for LGB people.

And June is the 50th anniversary of the protests by hundreds of LGBT people at the Stonewall Inn in New York that are considered to have kick-started the modern LGBT equality movement in the western world. (The photo is of protesters during a break in the second night of protests, 28th June 1969)

I am lucky enough to have been part of the last 32 of the 50 years of campaigning that we celebrate this year. In the 1980s, the groups I was in focussed mainly on LGB equality, and at that time, LGB people were subjected to outrageous slurs and misinformation, aided and promoted by much of the press. Many reasonable people heard these things so often that they thought some of them at least must be true.

We were told that equal rights for LGB people would lead to a big and problematic increase in the number of LGB people. We were told that recognising same-sex relationships would undermine straight people’s rights.

We were told that LGB people wanted to ‘recruit’ young people and ‘turn them gay’. And we were even told that LGB people posed a risk and should not be allowed to work with vulnerable adults and young people.

Disgraceful stuff, that wouldn’t be said today …

… except that it is being said today – it’s being said about trans people.

We are told that equal rights for trans people will lead to a big and problematic increase in the number of trans people. We are told that recognising trans people’s gender identity will undermine non-trans women’s rights.

We are told that trans people want to ‘recruit’ young people and ‘turn them trans’. And we are even told that trans people pose a risk and should not be allowed to work with vulnerable adults and young people.

This misinformation is aided and promoted by some of the press. Many reasonable people hear these things so often that they think that some of them at least must be true.

But they are just as untrue as they were when they were said about LGB people.

Just as many of us did three decades ago, when misunderstandings and deliberate falsehoods seemed sometimes to make progress on LGB equality almost impossible, the Equality Network will continue steadfastly to stand up for trans equality, speaking the truth, rebutting misinformation, and campaigning until equality is won, for trans people and all LGBTI people.

Just as the Scottish Executive and Parliament did in their first year, standing up for LGB equality, considering the real evidence, and repealing section 28, so we call on the Scottish Government and Parliament in their 21st year to stand up for trans equality, consider the real evidence, and repeal the barriers and unfairness in our gender recognition law, bringing it up to international best practice.

LGBT people stood together at the Stonewall Inn 50 years ago, and we stand together now. None of us has achieved equality until all of us have achieved equality, and the Equality Network is determined to see Scotland continue in 2019 to make progress towards the promise of equality for all.

Tim Hopkins, Director, Equality Network

 

News release: Passing of pardons bill welcomed by LGBTI charity

Scottish LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) equality charity the Equality Network welcomes the expected passing today by the Scottish Parliament of the bill that pardons people convicted of the old discriminatory offences of sex between men. The Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) (Scotland) Bill has its final stage 3 debate in the Parliament this afternoon.

Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, said: “We very much welcome the Parliament passing this bill. This is concrete recognition of the huge harm that was done to people who were prosecuted or lived under these old laws. Together with the First Minister’s public apology in the Parliament in November, the message is that Scotland has changed for good, and that discrimination is no longer acceptable.

“The next stage will be to implement and publicise the new law. Publicity will be crucial so that all those affected by these historical convictions get to hear about it.

“LGBTI people continue to face prejudice and hostility, and there is much more to do. We look forward to continuing to work with the Scottish Government, on the forthcoming reform of the Gender Recognition Act for trans people, and other work to address homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, and to promote fairness for all.”

The bill states clearly that these historical convictions were wrong and discriminatory, and the First Minister made a public apology for this on behalf of the Scottish Government when the bill was published on 7th November last year. The bill gives a formal pardon for these convictions where the activity would not be a crime today. The pardon applies both posthumously to people who are no longer living, and to those who are living. The bill also enables people who have one of these convictions on their records to have it removed (called a “disregard”), so that it no longer shows up on criminal record checks for employment or volunteering.

Tim Hopkins added: “The bill does a better job than the equivalent legislation in the rest of the UK. Unlike that legislation, it provides an automatic pardon to people who are still alive, and also covers all the old discriminatory offences, including where men were prosecuted simply for chatting up other men – called ‘importuning’.”

Until 1981, all sexual activity between men was a criminal offence in Scotland. Legislation in 1980 (which came into effect in 1981) decriminalised sex between men over the age of 21 (the age of consent for sex between men and women, or between two women, was then 16). In 1994 the age of consent for sex between men was reduced from 21 to 18, but it was not until 2001 that the discrimination was removed, by equalising the age of consent at 16.

Prior to these changes, men were prosecuted for activity with another man that would have been legal then between a man and a woman, and that is legal today between two men. This included consensual sexual activity in private, and acts such as kissing another man in a public place, or just chatting up another man in a public place.

The Equality Network estimates that the total number of these historical discriminatory convictions in Scotland runs into thousands, and that there are hundreds of men alive today with such convictions on their records.

 

Sex between women was never criminalised in this way in Scotland, and the same rules applied to it as applied for sex between a man and a woman.

It is likely to take some months for the Scottish Government to put in place the regulations that will set out how criminal records will be updated when a disregard is granted, so it is expected that the new law will come into effect towards the end of the year.

ENDS

For further information, please contact the Equality Network’s Director Tim Hopkins on 07747 108 967 or tim@equality-network.org

Notes to editors:

1. The Equality Network is a national charity working for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality and human rights in Scotland:
www.equality-network.org

2. The First Minister’s statement of apology can be found here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=11174&i=101857

3. More information about the bill and consideration of it by the Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee, can be found here: http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/CurrentCommittees/106817.aspx

Equality Network welcomes Lord Bracadale’s report on hate crime law

The Equality Network, the Scottish LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex) equality charity, welcomes the publication today of Lord Bracadale’s independent review of hate crime legislation.

Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, said: “We welcome the report, and we hope that the Scottish Government will soon introduce a bill to update the law. We are pleased at the recommendation to update the existing law on hate crimes that target transgender people and those that target intersex people, recognising the difference. And we welcome the proposal for a new offence to deal with the stirring up of hatred through threatening or abusive conduct. This will fill a gap created by the repeal of the non-football related provisions of the Offensive Behaviour at Football Act. Changing the law is not the whole answer though; more needs to be done to further improve responses by police, prosecutors and courts, and to encourage people to report crimes to the police.”

The Equality Network’s Scottish LGBTI hate crime report 2017 found that 64% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Scotland have experienced hate crime. For transgender people the figure is 80%, and for intersex people 77%. Nine out of ten LGBTI people who had experienced hate crime had experienced it more than once, and a third of them, more than ten times. 71% did not report any of these crimes to the police.  Of those who did report hate crimes, many were not satisfied with the responses of the criminal justice system.

The Equality Network worked closely with Patrick Harvie on his hate crime member’s bill, which became the Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009, but the organisation has been calling for some years for further review and updating of hate crime law.

ENDS

For further information, please contact the Equality Network’s Director Tim Hopkins on 07747 108 967 or tim@equality-network.org  

Notes to editors:

1.    The Equality Network is a national charity working for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality and human rights in Scotland:
www.equality-network.org

2.    Lord Bracadale’s report can be found here: http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0053/00535892.pdf

3.    The Equality Network’s Scottish LGBTI hate crime report 2017 can be found here: http://equality-network.org/resources/publications/policy/scottish-lgbti-hate-crime-report/

Latest Equality Network consultation responses now online

A key part of what we do is working to influence and improve public policy on LGBTI equality in Scotland. Equality Network’s most recent responses to Scottish Government consultations can now be found in our new Consultation Responses page.

You can visit the page here: http://equality-network.org/our-work/policyandcampaign/consultation-responses/

If you would like to find out more please contact Hannah Pearson, our Policy Coordinator, on hannah@equality-network.org

Equality Network welcomes big change in public attitudes

The proportion of people in Scotland who think that same-sex sexual relationships are always or mostly wrong has fallen to 18%, its lowest ever. That’s according to the 2015 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey, published today by the Scottish Government. Public opinion on this has changed very rapidly. Previous Scottish Social Attitudes Surveys found that in 2000, 48% thought that same-sex relationships were always or mostly wrong. By 2005 that had dropped to 40%, and in 2010 the figure was 27%.

The proportion of Scots who would be unhappy at a close relative forming a long-term same-sex relationship has also fallen fast, from 30% in 2010, to only 16% now. Attitudes vary a great deal by age – only 3% of people under 30 would now be unhappy about this.

Hannah Pearson, Policy Coordinator at the Equality Network, said, “We very much welcome the continued increase in the majority of people in Scotland who respect and value equally their lesbian, gay and bisexual neighbours. Attitudes have changed very fast, and we think that’s in part due to the leadership shown by successive Scottish governments in promoting equality in the law. It’s also because a lot more people have come out. People are less likely to hold discriminatory attitudes if they have a friend or family member they know is lesbian, gay or bisexual. Only 15% of Scots now say they don’t know anyone lesbian or gay.

Attitudes towards transgender people have also improved significantly in the past five years, but still have much further to go. The proportion of Scots who would be unhappy if a close relative formed a long-term relationship with someone who has undergone gender reassignment has dropped from 49% in 2010, to 32% in 2015.

On this question, transgender people are still the group facing the most negative attitudes. More positively, only 13% of people under 30 would be unhappy about this. The proportion of Scots who felt that a transgender person would not be suitable to be a primary school teacher fell from 31% in 2010 to 20% in 2015.

James Morton, manager of the Scottish Transgender Alliance, said, “We are glad to see confirmation that prejudice towards trans people has fallen. Trans people remain the social group which the largest minority of people in the Social Attitudes Survey would be unhappy to see join their family. However, it is heartening to see much more positive views amongst younger people, and we look forward to the change in attitudes towards trans people continuing.

Tim Hopkins, Equality Network Director, added: “In the Scottish LGBT Equality Report which we published last year, LGBT people identified negative social attitudes as a top issue. Although, as the Social Attitudes Survey shows, views towards the LGBTI community in Scotland have greatly improved over the years, many LGBTI people still face practical discrimination, and hate crime perpetrated by a small minority. More needs to be done to combat this”.

 

Scottish Rugby signs up to Scottish LGBT Sports Charter

09/08/16 - 16080907 - SCOTTISH RUGBY UNION BT MURRAYFIELD - EDINBURGH Scottish Rugby signing the Equality Network's LGBT Charter Munro Stevenson (Publicity/Media rep. -Glasgow Alphas) Neil Fox (captain of Caledonian Thebans) Scott Cuthbertson (Equality Network) Boris Pichotka (secretary of Glasgow Alphas) Dominic Mckay Pete Young (SRU Outreach and equality manager ).

Scottish Rugby today signed up as the newest signatory to the Scottish LGBT Sports Charter at the home of rugby in Scotland, BT Murrayfield, we’re delighted to welcome them as a signatory.

We launched the Scottish LGBT Sports Charter, which includes a set of five principles which aims remove the barriers to sport for LGBT people and tackle discrimination in sport, last year as a tool for governing bodies of sport, clubs and sports providers.

Signing the charter on behalf of Scottish Rugby, Dominic McKay, Chief Operating Officer said “Scottish Rugby has had a long standing commitment to ensure access to our sport is open to everyone regardless of age, background, education or sexuality. We take a proactive approach to providing training and development for LGBT teams and encouraging the growth of rugby among the gay community. This is best demonstrated by our support of the bid to bring the prestigious Bingham Cup to Scotland and BT Murrayfield next year. Signing the Sport Charter therefore is a natural next step for us.”

Scottish Rugby is already a leader in LGBT inclusion in sport, with the governing body supporting the development of LGBTI clubs and development coaches having attended LGBTI training in the Borders. Scottish Rugby is also supporting a bid to bring the 2018 Bingham Cup, a biennial international gay rugby union tournament, to Scotland.

Scott Cuthbertson our Development Manager, said: “We welcome Scottish Rugby as a signatory to the Scottish LGBT Sports Charter. We know through our research that LGBT people in Scotland still face significant barriers to their full inclusion in sport. This charter is an important step to addressing those barriers, setting out positive steps that organisations can take to become more LGBT inclusive.

“Rugby, and its role models, have a huge impact in Scotland, today we’re sending the message loud and clear, Rugby is a welcoming sport regardless of your sexual orientation or gender identity”

Attending the signing were Neil Fox, Captain of the Caledonian Thebans and Boris Pichotka & Munro Stevenson of the Glasgow Alphas, Scotland’s LGBTI inclusive rugby clubs based in Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Alphas were set up in October last year and the Caledonian Thebans have recently returned from Nashville after winning the Hoagland Cup. The Thebans are currently biding to host the Bingham Cup in Edinburgh.

While there are no openly LGBT players in the professional rugby in Scotland there are signs of progress across the UK. Keegan Hirst (Rugby League) and Sam Stanley both came out in 2015 following in the footsteps of retired welsh international Gareth Thomas.

You can find out more about our work on sport and those who have signed the Scottish LGBT Sport Charter on our sport pages here.

Update about the EU referendum

EU and Scottish flags

On Thursday 23rd June 2016, people in Scotland voted, by a majority of 62% to 38%, to remain part of the European Union. Every one of the 32 council areas in Scotland voted to stay in the EU. However, the UK as a whole voted to leave the EU.

Nicola Sturgeon has since said that the Scottish Government will do all it can to protect Scotland’s place within the EU, including the possibility of a second independence referendum for Scotland.

For a long time now, there will be uncertainty about the UK’s international relationships and future, and about the future of Scotland within the UK.

Two of the immediate concerns for LGBTI people are these:

Firstly, the Equality Network works for equality and human rights for all LGBTI people in Scotland – people of all nationalities and ethnicities. Our staff, volunteers and members include citizens of different EU and non-EU countries, and we would be much the poorer without that diversity. We will continue to strongly support Scotland’s openness and welcome for diverse people.

We are very concerned about the reports of an increase in racist abuse and attacks since Friday, apparently motivated by the referendum result. The reports we have seen so far have been from England, but this may be happening in Scotland also. We urge anyone who experiences or witnesses any kind of hate incident to report it to Police Scotland, by phoning 101 (or 999 if someone is in danger), or online here:
http://www.scotland.police.uk/contact-us/hate-crime-and-third-party-reporting/

We very much value our partnerships with LGBTI people and organisations in the rest of Europe, including Europe-wide organisations like ILGA-Europe and TGEU, and we will continue to work to strengthen those partnerships.

Secondly, concern has been expressed (for example in Saturday’s Daily Record) about the future of our equality and human rights legal protections. Britain’s gender reassignment and sexual orientation equality laws were originally introduced as requirements of EU law. But they are part of British law – the Equality Act 2010 – and are now stronger than the EU requires. Most of the Equality Act is not devolved to Scotland.

In our view, the Equality Act needs to be strengthened and improved, but there is a danger that the UK Government might weaken it. For the past 18 years, the Equality Network has called for equality law to be fully devolved to Scotland, because we think we would then have better and more appropriate law. We will continue to call for that, and to call for improvements to the Equality Act to fully cover gender identity, sex characteristics, and intersectional discrimination, and we will of course oppose any weakening of the law.

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is not a treaty of the EU. It is a treaty of the Council of Europe – an older and larger organisation of 47 European countries from Iceland to Russia, including many non-EU countries. There is a serious risk that the UK Government will attempt to remove the UK from the Convention, and we will continue to strongly oppose that.

The protections of the ECHR are built into the UK Human Rights Act, and also into the Scotland Act, which is the constitution of the Scottish Government and Parliament. If the Human Rights Act is abolished by the UK Government, the Scottish Parliament can re-instate it for Scotland’s devolved purposes. We are confident that the Scottish Parliament would refuse to give consent for the Scotland Act to be amended to remove the ECHR-related protections.

If you have any questions or concerns about how the referendum result might affect LGBTI people in Scotland, please email us on en@equality-network.org. We will do our best, bearing in mind the current uncertainties, to answer.

Tim Hopkins
Director

Statement about EU referendum: UK has voted to leave; Scotland backs Remain

EU and Scottish flagsIn yesterday’s referendum, every one of the 32 council areas in Scotland voted to remain in the EU. Overall, Scotland voted by 62% to 38% in favour of remaining in the EU:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-36599102

However, the UK as a whole voted in the referendum to leave the EU. Overall, Leave received 52% of the UK’s votes, while 48% voted in favour of Remaining in the EU:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-36615028

 Tim Hopkins of the Equality Network stated: “To our friends in other European countries, in the EU and the rest of Europe, we promise to continue to work with you so that together we can continue to promote LGBTI equality right across Europe.”

We will keep monitoring the situation and update here in due course, as more information becomes available.

What are your LGBTI equality priorities for the next Scottish Parliament election?

survey reportHave your say on the LGBTI equality priorities for the next Scottish Parliament: www.equality-network.org/sp16

The next Scottish Parliament election (May 2016) could have a significant impact on the progress of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) equality and human rights in Scotland for years to come.

The Scottish Government and Parliament will decide changes to the law as well as policies, expenditure and initiatives in a wide range of areas that affect LGBTI equality, including education, health, policing, the justice system, gender recognition, family law, culture, media and sport.

The Equality Network has launched a consultation to find out which LGBTI equality issues you want the political parties to address in their manifestos at the coming election, and what LGBTI equality measures you would like to see the next Scottish Government and Parliament prioritise: www.equality-network.org/sp16

Your response will help inform our work in the run-up to the election and beyond, and we hope it will also influence the pledges that Scotland’s political parties make in their manifestos next year.

While this consultation is primarily aimed at LGBTI people it is also open to non-LGBTI people. The survey is anonymous and should take approximately 10 minutes to complete. If you have any questions about the survey please contact: tom@equalitynetwork.org

All of the Equality Network’s campaign work, including this consultation, is funded entirely by donations. If you would like to support our work for LGBTI equality please consider making a donation or becoming a Friend today: www.equality-network.org/support-us

Have your say on the future of civil partnership in Scotland

graphicTake the survey on the future of civil partnership in Scotland:           www.equality-network.org/cp

The Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014 means that same-sex couples are now able to have a marriage or a civil partnership in Scotland.

Currently, mixed-sex (legally female/male) couples can only choose marriage because the law in Scotland prevents mixed-sex couples from having a civil partnership. This also means that mixed-sex couples in a civil partnership from another country have no legal recognition for their relationship in Scotland.

Last year, the Scottish Government made a commitment to consult on the future of civil partnership in Scotland. This consultation is expected to take place later in 2015. There will be a number of options discussed, including:

1) Keeping civil partnership and opening it up to mixed-sex couples, so that all couples have the choice of marriage or civil partnership in Scotland

2) Keeping civil partnership but continuing to restrict it to same-sex couples only

3) Phasing out civil partnership altogether so that marriage becomes the only option available to couples in future (existing civil partnerships would continue).

Around the world, in countries that allow same-sex marriage, some countries have marriage and civil partnership open to all couples (e.g. the Netherlands, New Zealand, France), and some just have marriage (e.g. Portugal, Norway, Sweden) with no option of civil partnership. Only one jurisdiction in the world (England and Wales) has marriage open to all couples but restricts civil partnership to same-sex couples only.

In Scotland, marriage and civil partnership have almost identical legal effects but they have different names and are legally a different status. For various reasons, some people prefer marriage and other people prefer civil partnership.

In advance of the Scottish Government consultation the Equality Network is asking your opinion on the future of civil partnership in Scotland: www.equality-network.org/cp

The survey is open to everyone, including LGBTI people and non-LGBTI people. It is completely anonymous and should take approximately 10 minutes to complete.

Your response will help inform our ongoing work on partnership rights in Scotland and our submission to the Scottish Government consultation.

Over 800 people have responded so far, but we want to ensure that as many people as possible get to have their say, so please also encourage others to respond by sharing the survey on Facebook and Twitter: Click to share on Facebook    Click to share on Twitter

If you have any questions about the survey contact us at: en@equality-network.org