By Karina Knight
Over 200 delegates attended the TUC Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Conference at Congress House on 24th-25th July, the biggest so far in the short history of the section.
Policy discussed included LGBT asylum seekers, pension rights, partnership rights, employment rights and supporting LGBT students in schools. Motions submitted, whilst all worthy of support, were fairly bland. Speaker after speaker spoke to the motions with leftists and liberals able to support them from a completely different political standpoint. Bizarrely, the only debate to cause any dissent related to the composition of the LGBT committee and whether spaces should be reserved for black, disabled and transgender members with some unions arguing vehemently against. In spite of the insipid nature of the policy passed, some important principles were established by conference:
Firstly, on Civil Partnerships: the government intends to allow for gay people to register their partnerships akin to heterosexual marriage which is a great step forward if you wish to conform to the oppressive institutions that bind heterosexuals in society. NATFHE's emergency motion criticised the consultative process as "result(ing) in a loss of a crucial opportunity to critically analyse the heteronormative assumptions within society", the proposer speaking eloquently for 'liberation rather than assimilation'.
Linked to this is conference's recognition that pensions are deferred pay, which should be transferable to any significant relationship regardless of (gay/straight) marital status.
On 1st December 2003 the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations will come into force. For the first time it will be illegal to discriminate in the workplace on the grounds of (perceived) sexual orientation. Whilst this is welcome there is an exemption for faith-based organisations which is worded such that it could conceivably be used by employers to justify discrimination. Given the expansion of, for example, faith schools as part of Blair's flagship education policy, this exemption is highly worrying. Deputy Minister for Women and Equality, Jacqui Smith, asserted in her address the Government's case for this exemption; this was firmly thrown out by conference.