BY Maria Exall
London Pride, taking place over the weekend of 30 June-1 July, is an event which points towards liberation. The right to celebrate our sexuality in public is an important part of our freedom.
This years Pride takes place in a year when we have seen bans and protests against Pride in other countries. The Mayor of London will be attending London Pride, but the Mayor of Moscow has banned Moscow Pride. Neo Nazi groups and religious reactionaries have targeted Prides in many countries. In Jerusalem a Jewish fundamentalist protestor was arrested with a homemade bomb, created for use against the Pride march there.
For many years socialist lgbt activists have expressed the view that Pride in the UK has become more of a party than a political movement, which is true. However we should also remember our right to party is evidence of political freedom.
With the progressive changes in the law on lgbt rights over the past ten years in the UK it is easy to forget that people in same sex relationships face criminal charges in 74 countries worldwide. In nine of those the state puts people to death for loving someone of the same sex. In many other places the state turns aside while lgbt people are harassed, persecuted and killed. Often the influence of fundamentalist or reactionary religious groups encourages and justifies this violence.
Equality under the law for lgbt people in Britain was held back by the Tories all through the 80s and 90s. These decades saw an increase in tolerant social attitudes, but reactionaries stirred up backlash politics to avoid acting on these changes.
Once a Labour government was elected in 1997 the demands of LGBT activists were translated into legislation, not least because of the long standing support and involvement of the trade union and labour movement. Reactionary politics on sexuality was sidelined, but it has not gone away.
Now the political task for LGBT activists is to make these changes in law in the UK become the basis for lasting social change, not the ephemera of the pink pound and the “business case” for equality. We need a democratic working class based lgbt movement able to root out homophobia and keep prejudice and bigotry at bay both in workplaces, schools, colleges and in our local communities.
Despite the changes in the law, and a growing popular consensus in the UK we have seen unprecedented joint religious opposition to the recent improvements in lgbt equality in public services provision, the so called gay adoption row. Watch this space for the same forces to be on the march against the future harmonisation in equality law, the Single Equality Act, the Government is planning to introduce next year.
Meanwhile let’s enjoy our freedom. Happy Pride!