We were delighted to use the occasion of the 2022 Dublin Pride Parade to unveil a new banner showcasing our rich legacy of campaigning dating back to 1979. The highlight of our Pride season was the return for the second year of our ‘Leaders Series’ where this author conducted in-depth interviews with An Taoiseach Micheal Martin and the Minister for Equality, Roderic O’Gorman. The homophobic killings of two men in Sligo brought the need for comprehensive hate crime legislation into even sharper focus, along with a well-documented rise in violent assaults targeting LGBTQ+ people, making the general sense of menace and anti-social behavior being felt even more acutely by our community.
The Taoiseach committed to his government advancing their Hate Crime Bill as a matter of priority at the beginning of the Autumn Oireachtas term and having it on the statute books by the end of the year. We welcomed the announcement a few weeks later by Minister McEntee of an updated Bill with more robust provisions. Indeed we have always been clear that any new law cannot suffer from the kinds of deficiencies that have characterised previous well-intentioned but ultimately toothless legislation in this area. The law must be enforced and enforceable and proactively tackle a type of ‘signal’ crime that doesn’t simply target individuals but entire communities.
The Taoiseach also agreed that the process of updating our 1990’s era RSE (Relationships and Sexuality Education) curriculum needs to be ‘accelerated’ and that no school can be allowed to ‘opt-out’ or render LGBTQ+ students invisible or worse. For his part, Minister O’Gorman also told me that a key plank of his updating of Irish equality legislation is to ensure that gender identity/expression will be explicitly enshrined and he expects these amendments to come into effect in 2023.
As the Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty 2014 in particular makes clear, the State and its many agencies are not ‘neutral’ or ‘impartial’ when it comes to LGBTQ+ equality and indeed are required by law to visibly demonstrate progress. On the need to ban the dangerous and discredited practice of ‘conversion therapy’, Minister O’Gorman told me that work is being actively progressed to protect all LGBTQ+ people against this abuse. He provided reassurance that the call by his Department for survivors to come forward is not about whether the practice should be banned but rather to better inform the legislation that will be enacted.
The island of Ireland has been specifically cited in international reports as a location where this ‘therapy’ is being peddled and indeed the Minister told me how he has spoken directly with survivors who attest to its existence and the need for a fully LGBTQ+ inclusive law. Along with fellow members of the Coalition Against Conversion Practices, the NXF is also clear that there cannot be any loop-holes regarding erroneous notions of ‘consent’ or religious based opt-outs (prayer etc.) that would effectively allow what is a recognised form of torture to continue in practice.
Another notable feature of our ‘Leaders Series’ were the words from the Taoiseach regarding Trans rights. Micheal Martin said he was troubled by the toxic anti-Trans rhetoric that has become such a hallmark of the ‘debate’ in the UK, where their Tory Government has been weaponising the Trans community to fan-the-flames of their ‘culture wars’. The Taoiseach was firmly of the view that Ireland must navigate these issues in a fundamentally different way and rather than ape the toxic discourse for which Britain has been formally reprimanded as ‘a country of concern’ by the Council of Europe, we should instead ensure that discussion takes place in an informed and respectful manner and where the focus is on understanding and supporting what is a particularly vulnerable community.
Two other developments for the NXF this Pride season: We were pleased to join the newly formed Trans Equality Coalition, launched by the Lord Mayor of Dublin in June. We were also delighted to be invited to attend Baltic Pride celebrations where this author chaired a ‘Proud Cities’ discussion featuring the Mayors of Vilnius, Oslo and Stockholm and also the Biden Administration’s LGBTQ+ rights Envoy.
The Russian war against Ukraine was not lost on any of us gathered in Vilnius and how the invasion represents a larger conflict between liberal democracy vs authoritarianism. We in the global LGBTQ+ community certainly have a vested interest in seeing the former prevail.