CALL FOR TOUGH NEW LAWS AGAINST ANTIGAY HATE CRIMES
The Rt. Hon. Jack Straw, MP,
3rd May, 1999.
Dear Mr. Straw,
Government Action following Friday's Soho bombing
Given your hospital visits to those injured by the bomb,
it is plain that your weekend, like that of so many of us,
has been disrupted by the blast,
(albeit not in the devasting way that the survivors, their families,
and those of the deceased will be affected for years to come).
I note that you have been reported this weekend as saying
"there has, happily, been a huge change in the attitudes of society as a whole towards gay people. There is, of course, much more progress needed":
and I would agree with this on both counts.
From the extracts which I have seen reported,
it would appear that the remainder of your comments have been limited
to bringing the perpetrator(s) to justice,
and on the sterling work of the police.
On behalf of OutRage! I am writing to ask you
to consider and reply to the following additional points.
- To introduce an amendment to the 1998 Crime & Disorder Act,
to impose tougher sentences for violence and harassment
against lesbians and gay men,
(in accordance with the spirit of the amendment tabled
on 8th May last year by Richard Allan, MP).
- To repeal Section 28
of the 1988 Local Government Act,
which, despite various Government pronouncements,
in practice still exercises a severely inhibitory effect
upon schools and other organisations which work with young people.
- In accordance with Tony Blair's 1997 election slogan
"Education! Education! Education!", to ensure
that both primary and secondary schools do their utmost to:
- promote integration (of all segments of society)
and eliminate intolerance;
- eradicate racism, homophobia, and other forms of bullying;
- introduce balanced sex education,
addressing at all levels
of the curriculum and in all relevant subjects
appropriate awareness of acceptable and unacceptable variations
of behaviour within personal relationships, for the practical,
long-term benefit of all pupils, whatever their sexuality.
- In the context of the reported statement that you
"value the close working relationship which I have with Stonewall
and the gay community": with which L/G/B/T
(lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender) organisations
do you have any relationship, apart from Stonewall?
Although I have personally supported Stonewall financially
for a number of years -and still do- it is only fair to state
that they neither consult nor are accountable
either to their own supporters,
nor to the rest of the L/G/B/T community.
As such their point of view is by no means representative.
Moreover, despite their wealth (relative to other community bodies),
their still limited resources do not enable them to address
all the issues which they might like to:
to say nothing of other issues which they prefer to ignore.
-- Any consultation of significance must be within a larger,
democratic, representative and accountable forum:
for example, through the Equality Alliance,
(which has performed a useful coordinating and
information-sharing rôle this weekend).
You will be aware that OutRage! is most desirous
to have serious input into the legislative process:
as, indeed, are other groups.
- On the subject of the police,
it is indeed right and proper that the good work which they do
should be acknowledged and appropriately rewarded.
However, as the MacPherson Report has demonstrated
(in the different but very closely related area of racism),
there are regrettably still shortcomings.
In the context of homophobia, I mention the following selection. -
- The May issue of "Gay Times" carries a report, pp. 14 + 48,
on homophobia within the police force:
at a number of stations, but, in particular,
at Soho's West End Central.
Indeed, after Saturday's protest rally,
a fellow marcher stated that a friend of his,
a lesbian police officer there,
was very distressed about the working environment.
-- There is little point in encouraging the police
to hunt for bomb-planting terrorists
whilst they allow hotbeds of homophobia and racism
to flourish within their midst.
- At last year's Gay Pride March, a member of the Equality Alliance,
Ian Farmer, was maliciously arrested.
He subsequently complained: only to discover earlier this year
that his complaint had been misrecorded.
The mishandling of this case reflects a number of the issues
which were recognised in the Stephen Lawrence scandal.
- Although the police visited and warned selected gay businesses
of the possible danger of a bomb, (not, I am informed,
with due diligence), the warning was by no means high-profile.
Since they had suspicions, tragically confirmed,
that bombs might be directed at other, nonethnic, minority groups,
it would surely have been appropriate to announce this
to the general public through the national media.
That this was neglected reminds me of the
"Don't die of ignorance" advertisements
warning the nation of the danger of icebergs.
This was another warning that dare not speak its name in public.
-- Why are the British as a nation so shamefully coy?
It is truly disastrous: as has tragically been proved on both occasions.
We also hereby invite you to attend a brief commemorative
Vigil of Remembrance at 6:30 p.m., Friday, 7th May,
Old Compton Street, outside the Admiral Duncan.
Reply to Jack Straw 19-December-1999
Letter from the Home Secretary in Reply to OutRage! Letter to Tony Blair 22-November-1999
OutRage! invites Blair to "kick ass" 21-July-1999
Response: Low-key DfEE encouragement for teachers to come out
Annotated Reply from Home Office 23-June-1999
Letter to David Blunkett 25-May-1999
Police Failed to Warn Gay Public: OutRage! call for a Public Enquiry
April Bombings: Vigil of Remembrance
Call for Tough New Laws against Antigay Hate Crimes
Soho Bomb -- 3 killed, scores injured
Amendment to the Crime & Disorder Bill
OutRage! Amendment to the Human Rights Bill Tabled
Government excludes gays from Human Rights and Crime & Disorder Bills
Section 28: Schools attacked for buying gay sex education packs The Scotsman, 14-November-1999
Author: John Hunt
©1999, OutRage! London
Last modified: 26-January-2000