What has Sir Keir Starmer’s Shadow Cabinet said on LGBTQ rights?

Hint: It’s a lot more supportive than Boris Johnson’s.

On Saturday (4 April), Sir Keir Starmer was elected as the leader of the Labour Party with a large majority. Keir replaces Jeremy Corbyn following Labour’s performance in the 2019 General Election, their worst since 1935.

The Labour Party has traditionally been very supportive of LGBTQ rights, introducing civil partnerships and the Gender Recognition Act during its last term in government, as well as a majority of Labour MPs voting in favour of same-sex marriage. Previous Labour administrations have legalised homosexuality.

And Keir’s Cabinet represents this with all of its members having voted in favour of same-sex marriage, both in England and Wales and in Northern Ireland. It’s also more representative of the LGBTQ community, with Nick Brown, Nia Griffith, Luke Pollard, Steve Reed and Cat Smith.

Unlike Boris Johnson’s Cabinet, the Shadow Cabinet has no powers over the policy direction of the country, and are mainly there to hold the government frontbench to account, and usually if someone is in a Shadow position, they take that role into government if their party is elected.

Keir Starmer

Position: Leader of the Opposition

Constituency: Holborn and St Pancras (since 2015)

The Leader of the Opposition is a good ally when it comes to LGBTQ rights. Although he wasn’t present for several of the big votes in Parliament when it came to LGBTQ rights, like the Equality Act or same-sex marriage, he has backed the community.

He voted in favour of extending same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland, and in an essay for PinkNews emphasised how fighting for LGBTQ rights would be at the “core of my leadership.”

He wrote in favour of a roll-out of a full PrEP rollout, LGBTQ-inclusive same-sex education and reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, where he pledged that non-binary individuals would be included, and said trans voices “must be central in our policy making.”

Sir Keir also highlighted previous work he’d done as a lawyer and Director of Public Prosecutions where he’d campaigned for the right of gay men to serve in the military and campaigned against homophobic laws within the Commonwealth.

Keir’s approach to LGBTQ people has been praised by former colleagues, with barrister Jonathan Cooper writing in the Independent about how Keir made sure he and his boyfriend were included back in the 1990s, affording him dignity when others would simply ignore him. Cooper added that Keir was even defending trans and non-binary individuals at this time, saying “human rights mean no one is excluded.”

It is, however, slightly notable that he didn’t sign Labour’s trans rights pledge, although he said he was “broadly supportive” of its aims.

Angela Rayner

Position: Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, Chair of the Labour Party

Constituency: Ashton-under-Lyne (since 2015)

Like her leader, Angela hadn’t been elected to Parliament when votes on same-sex marriage were going through, but as Shadow Education Secretary under Jeremy Corbyn, she has been a vocal backer of LGBTQ-inclusive education and trans rights, writing for VICE that the current Gender Recognition Act isn’t working for trans people.

When LGBTQ rights do come up in Parliament, Angela votes in favour, voting to extend same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland.

She has also been quick to call out Labour members when they don’t back LGBTQ rights, saying she was “disappointed” when former Prime Minister and Labour leader Tony Blair said he wouldn’t sign Labour’s trans rights pledge, something that Angela signed, and also called out former Labour MP Roger Godsiff’s homophobia on inclusive education, reporting him to the party’s Chief Whip.

Anneliese Dodds

Role: Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

Constituency: Oxford East (since 2017)

Anneliese may be a relatively new face to the Houses of Parliament, only having been elected in 2017, but she’s not new to politics, having served as an MEP beforehand.

However, even in that short space of time, Anneliese has proven to be an ally, voting in favour of extending same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland. And during her time as an MEP, she was part of an intergroup on LGBTI rights, and voted in favour of resolutions improving LGBTQ rights.

In an article for PinkNews in 2015, while still serving as an MEP, Anneliese wrote that “there is still much more we need to do – including on transgender rights – before we have full equality regardless of sexual orientation or gender.” She further wrote that it was “appalling” that five member states didn’t have anti-LGBTQ hate crime provisions, and called for better LGBTQ rights in all European Union countries.

Lisa Nandy

Role: Shadow Foreign Secretary

Constituency: Wigan (since 2010)

During her tenure in Parliament, Lisa has proven to be an ally, always voting in favour of LGBTQ-related legislation, like same-sex marriage. And during the leadership election, she signed Labour’s trans rights pledge, but admitted on Sophy Ridge on Sunday she had “pause for thought” when it came to removing people who support some transphobic organisations, saying it’d be better to deal with it on an individual basis.

The reason Lisa signed the pledge was because “the sentiment of the pledge about protecting trans rights and about accepting that trans men are men and trans women are women is really important, especially at the moment with the level of discrimination that people face.” On the same programme, she backed trans women standing on all-women shortlists and she has also clashed with Piers Morgan on the subject of trans athletes, calling him out for the way he handled trans issues.

After facing anti-trans activists during an LGBTQ hustings event, Lisa said she’d “redouble” her efforts in fighting for trans equality. And in a video uploaded by Labour activist Beth Desmond, she said: “We’ve seen a rise in transphobic hate crimes in this country over recent years and I think it’s really important therefore that rather than allow women to be pitted against one another, we stand up and speak very very clearly to say: trans women are women.”

During the leadership election, some tried claiming that Lisa was anti-gay due to an article she wrote in university questioning the funding of an LGB society, among many others, but she swatted accusations of homophobia away as “daft and offensive” highlighting her track record of backing equality as an MP.

Nick Thomas-Symonds

Role: Shadow Home Secretary

Constituency: Torfaen (since 2015)

In his role as Shadow Home Secretary, Nick will be up against Priti Patel, who isn’t known for being supportive of the LGBTQ community. Thankfully, Nick is, having voted in favour of extending same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland. In 2016, he also signed an Early Day Motion celebrating the “seismic shift in legal equality for LGBT people under successive Labour governments from 1997 to 2010.”

And in his former role as Shadow Solicitor General, he called for hate crime laws to be toughened so that crimes motivated by a person’s sexuality or gender identity were treated the same as if they’d been motivated by a person’s skin colour or religion. “Hostility based on transgender identity, sexual orientation and disability needs to be treated in the same way as hostility based on race or religion,” he told the Mirror.

Rachel Reeves

UK Parliament

Role: Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

Constituency: Leeds West

Like her opposite Michael Gove, this is a largely ceremonial role, and Rachel’s main duties will be holding Gove to account. There’s not a whole lot to say for Rachel when it comes to the matter of LGBTQ rights, but she voted in favour of same-sex marriage both for England and Wales and Northern Ireland.

And after the Conservatives formed a confidence-and-supply agreement with the DUP in 2017, Rachel tweeted her support of LGBTQ rights, highlighting how important they were with the “dangerous deal.”

David Lammy

Role: Shadow Justice Secretary

Constituency: Tottenham (since 2000)

David is most known for speaking on issues of race and defending the Windrush generation, but the MP is also a vocal supporter of equal rights, having voted in favour of civil partnerships, same-sex marriage and the repeal of Section 28.

During the debate on same-sex marriage, he likened opponents of the bill to people who were in favour of the slave trade in the 19th century. He also cut ties with Christian Action Research and Education once he discovered their opposition to same-sex marriage. David Lammy is also not afraid to point out hypocrisy, and when Conservative MP Nadine Dorries noted Britain’s celebration of Pride and same-sex marriage, he pointed out that she’d voted against LGBTQ rights on nine separate occasions.

John Healey

Role: Shadow Defence Secretary

Constituency: Wentworth and Dearne (since 1997)

The current Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, is a noted opponent of LGBTQ equality, thankfully John is not, having voted in favour of a repeal on Section 28, the Equality Act and same-sex marriage.

His only blotches are being absent on legalising civil partnerships, and voting against mixed-sex marriages to become same-sex marriages if someone transitioned back when same-sex marriage was illegal.

Ed Miliband

Role: Shadow Business Secretary

Constituency: Doncaster North (since 2005)

The former leader of the Labour Party has returned to front-line politics, and he’s a great ally for LGBTQ rights, having never voted against them in his 15 years in the House of Commons.

When Ed was leader of the Labour Party he was vocal in the campaign for same-sex marriage, and said: “I know that equal marriage is a very, very important part of ensuring equality before the law, the equality in our culture which is so important, and such a sign of us being a modern country and the kind of country I believe in.”

Ed told this publication back in 2015 that he wanted to be a “happy warrior” in the fight for LGBTQ equality and pledged that a Labour government would campaign on such issues. His commitment to LGBTQ rights even earned him the backing of Sir Ian McKellen ahead of the 2015 General Election. Ed also appointed Michael Cashman as an international LGBT Rights Envoy.

He has vocally backed same-sex inclusive relationship education, appearing on a podcast to back it, and tweeting out: “An LGBT-inclusive education for young people is an essential part of tackling homophobia.”

Emily Thornberry

Role: Shadow International Trade Secretary

Constituency: Islington South and Finsbury (since 2005)

Emily is a massive LGBTQ ally, having voted in favour of every piece of LGBTQ legislation in front of her since she entered Parliament in 2005. Even as the Shadow Cabinet was being formed, a meme went around saying she’d been appointed as Secretary of State for Gays, and that would be perfect.

The politician has even declared herself a gay icon, telling the Evening Standard: “I’ve been a gay icon a number of times, especially when I spun the decks at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern.”

As Shadow Foreign Secretary, she pushed for LGBTQ equality worldwide. Writing for The Guardian, she praised places like India and Trinidad and Tobago for overturning colonial-era laws against homosexuality while condemning others like Turkey, Egypt and Hungary for going backwards.

When Brunei introduced the death penalty for homosexuality last year, she spoke out against the move and called for homophobic countries to be removed from the Commonwealth, she even addressed crowds that protested outside the Brunei-owned Dorchester Hotel.

When Emily stood as a candidate for the leadership, she was able to explain to PinkNews for six minutes about why LGBTQ rights were an important part of her political career, and that was just the start of an interview focused entirely on LGBTQ rights.

Jonathan Reynolds

UK Parliament

Role: Shadow Works and Pensions Secretary

Constituency: Stalybridge and Hyde (since 2010)

Like many others on this list, Jonathan has voted in favour of all LGBTQ-inclusive legislation put in front of him. However, the issue that he is most vocal about is LGBTQ-inclusive relationships education.

On Facebook, he wrote: “I am proud to raise my own children to understand that families take all forms, that love is love, and that I will love them and be proud of them whoever they are.” In the same post, he said that people concerned about what children might be ‘exposed to’ were “stigmatising nonsense.”

As a Christian MP, he has also spoken out against the way that certain people in the religion treat the LGBTQ community, and in a tweet, which also spoke out against Section 28 wrote: “It is a matter of huge regret and sadness to me that faith has so often been used to cause pain to LGBT people.”

Jon Ashworth

Role: Shadow Health Secretary

Constituency: Leicester South (since 2011)

Jon is another person who was is Parliament when same-sex marriage was debated, and like others he voted in favour of it then, and voted in favour of it again when it came to Northern Ireland.

Like Angela Rayner, Jon was a member of the Shadow Cabinet who criticised Roger Godsiff for speaking out against LGBTQ-inclusive education, although not as passionately, saying: “I’m not sure if he should lose the whip but I think he has to understand that it’s Labour party policy to support this education in schools.”

After Theresa May was elected as Conservative leader in 2016 and created her first Cabinet, Jon hit out at the appointment of Liam Fox, for among other things, criticising “gay marriage as ‘social engineering’.”

Rebecca Long-Bailey

Role: Shadow Education Secretary

Constituency: Salford and Eccles (since 2015)

As an MP since 2015, Rebecca hasn’t had many chances to vote on LGBTQ rights, but she did vote in favour of extending same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland.

And when she stood to be leader of the Labour Party, she was a vocal defender of trans rights, signing the trans rights pledge and defending them on programmes like The Andrew Marr Show.

Not afraid to call people out, in an interview with PinkNews she said that current Prime Minister Boris Johnson was the biggest threat to LGBTQ rights in the country, and worried that the longer he packaged himself in that way “the more socially acceptable it will be for those sorts of criticisms and comments to be made.”

Jo Stevens

Role: Shadow Culture Secretary

Constituency: Cardiff Central (since 2015)

Having entered Parliament in 2015, Jo hasn’t had a lot of opportunities to vote in favour of LGBTQ equality, but when the vote to extend same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland came around, she did vote in favour.

Outside of that, after Brunei introduced laws last year punishing homosexuality with death, Jo questioned the Foreign Office over travel advice for LGBTQ travellers and workers.

Bridget Phillipson

UK Parliament

Role: Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury

Constituency: Houghton and Sunderland South (since 2010)

Although Bridget might not be the most well-known name in Keir Starmer’s Shadow Cabinet, she is still a vital ally to the LGBTQ community, always voting in favour of pro-LGBTQ legislation.

After a Conservative government appointed drug adviser, Hans-Christian Raabe, was sacked in 2011 for anti-gay beliefs, including comparing homosexuality and paedophillia, Bridget said on the Home Affairs Select Committee it was an “absolute outrage” that the government had appointed “someone with such horrific opinions to this senior role.”

Luke Pollard

UK Parliament

Role: Shadow Environment Secretary

Constituency: Plymouth Sutton and Devonport (since 2017)

Unlike Boris Johnson’s Cabinet, Keir’s Shadow Cabinet does have some LGBTQ representation, including Luke, and unsurprisingly he’s voted in favour of LGBTQ rights when it came to same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.

Luke has also raised awareness for Trans Day of Remembrance, spoken in favour of LGBTQ-inclusive same-sex relationships education and spoken out against Ann Widdecombe when she said science could ‘cure’ homosexuality, saying: “Being gay isn’t a disease to be cured. Ann Widdecombe is continuing her sick anti-LGBT campaign.”

Sadly, Luke can show us that homophobia is still alive in this country as his constituency office has been vandalised with homophobic graffiti on numerous occasions. In a dignified response, he said: “My offer to sit down and talk with the individuals who vandalised my office still stands, but they need to be aware that hate and abuse will not silence me in standing up for our city and its people.”

Steve Reed

UK Parliament

Role: Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary

Constituency: Croydon North (since 2012)

Another LGBTQ appointment, Steve is another backer of LGBTQ equality, urging people to contact their MP to vote in favour of same-sex marriage.

Steve, alongside other LGBTQ members of the Shadow Cabinet, Luke Pollard and Nia Griffith were among the LGBTQ members of the Labour Party to demand the No. 10 Press Secretary under Theresa May resign after he outed Shahmir Sanni, and has spoken out against Uganda’s anti-gay laws.

He has also attracted the ire of anti-LGBTQ groups like Christian Concern and the Church Militant.

Thangam Debbonaire

UK Parliament

Role: Shadow Housing Secretary

Constituency: Bristol West (since 2015)

Thangam supported same-sex marriage being legalised in Northern Ireland, but the LGBTQ issue she’s been most vocal on is the attack on LGBTQ rights from Brunei.

She has led debates in the House of Commons on the subject, as she was “horrified at the monstrous violence that Brunei is willing to inflict on its citizens” and wrote on PoliticsHome about the unique position the United Kingdom is in for being able to oppose this.

Jim McMahon

UK Parliament

Role: Shadow Transport Secretary

Constituency: Oldham West and Royton (since 2015)

Jim hasn’t said a whole lot when it comes to LGBTQ rights, but he voted in favour of extended same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland.

Preet Gill

Role: Shadow International Development Secretary

Constituency: Birmingham Edgbaston (since 2017)

Preet is one of the newer faces in the Labour Party, but she is still a strong LGBTQ ally, voting in favour of extending same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland.

When Birmingham University opened a new campus in Dubai, she promised to raise the safety of LGBTQ students there with the university’s vice-chancellor as a matter of urgency. Preet has also written in favour of universal free healthcare in order to defeat HIV/AIDs and defended trans Labour activist Lily Madigan after a series of attacks against her were published in The Times.

Louise Haigh

Role: Interim Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary

Constituency: Sheffield Heeley (since 2015)

Louise is only in this role on an interim basis, but she is a solid ally having voted in favour of extending same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland. She has also written against the way that Brunei treats LGBTQ people, calling on the government to take action and spoken in support of giving asylum to LGBTQ asylum seekers.

Ian Murray

Role: Shadow Scotland Secretary

Constituency: Edinburgh South (since 2010)

Labour’s only Scottish MP is also a strong advocate for LGBTQ rights, having voted in favour of all pieces of pro-LGBTQ legislation since being part of the House of Commons.

Although he told DIVA that he doesn’t think everyone looking for a debate on reforms to the Gender Recognition Act was a transphobe, he added that “one transphobic person in the Labour Party is one too many” and that he would expel any TERFs engaging in hate speech against the trans community.

Nia Griffith

Role: Shadow Wales Secretary

Constituency: Llanelli (since 2005)

Nia has had plenty of opportunities to vote in favour of LGBTQ-equality, and she’s voted in favour at every one of those opportunities, like on the Equality Act and same-sex marriage.

The openly gay politician has written about the dangers that Section 28 posed when it was in force, writing how it prevented gay teachers “valuable opportunities to provide positive role models to young people” and that “it made it impossible to challenge homophobic bullying effectively.”

She has also spoken out in favour of LGBTQ-inclusive relationships education, saying the right to remove children from such lessons should be removed. On Sunday Politics, she said: “We live in a diverse society and what’s important is that every person in that society should feel valued and should be able to speak about their religion and their sexuality without fear.”

In a piece for PinkNews, she wrote: “Visibility matters, and it makes it easier for young people in particular to know that they can go just as far whether they are gay or straight.” She praised how far LGBTQ rights have come within her lifetime, while acknowledging there was more to do, especially in European countries where Pride marches were attacked.

Marsha de Cordova

Role: Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary

Constituency: Battersea (since 2017)

It’s important for a Women and Equalities Secretary to be in favour of LGBTQ rights, and thankfully Marsha is having voted in favour of extending same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland, and drawing attention to Brazil’s far-right leader attacking LGBTQ rights on his first day in office.

Andy McDonald

Role: Shadow Employment Rights and Protections Secretary

Constituency: Middlesbrough (since 2012)

Andy McDonald was first elected in 2012, and during his time in Parliament has voted in favour of every piece of pro-LGBTQ legislation he could.

Also attending Shadow Cabinet

Rosena Allin-Khan

Role: Shadow Mental Health Minister

Constituency: Tooting (since 2016)

Mental health is a massive issue for LGBTQ people, so it’s very reassuring to see this position remain in Keir’s Shadow Cabinet. And Rosena looks to be a good appointment for this role, as when she stood for Deputy Leader of the party, she signed both the LGBT+ rights and the trans rights pledge.

Cat Smith

UK Parliament

Role: Shadow Young People and Voter Engagement Minister

Constituency: Lancaster and Fleetwood (since 2015)

Cat Smith is another LGBTQ member attending Shadow Cabinet, and one of the few bisexual MPs, and she voted in favour of LGBTQ rights in the House of Commons.

Celebrating Pride in a Facebook post, she wrote: “LGBT rights are human rights and I’m proud to support Lancaster Pride. But with rising levels of homophobic and transphobic hate crimes it reminds us Pride isn’t just a celebration, it’s a political stand against hate too. No one should face discrimination, prejudice or violence bceuase [sic] of who they love. Love is a terrible thing to hate. Love more.”

Lord Falconer of Thoroton

Role: Shadow Attorney General

Constituency: N/A (life peerage since 1997)

Lord Falconer has returned to front-line politics, and during his era as a minister in the Blair years, he spoke in favour of LGBTQ rights. During the gay adoption debate, he was reported as saying that equality must come before the views of the Catholic Church.

Speaking about laws banning anti-LGBTQ discrimination, he said: “We have introduced laws which prevent discrimination against people on the basis of their sexual orientation. Those laws should be given full effect. We take the view in this country that you shouldn’t be discriminated against. That applies to everybody.”

Valerie Vaz

UK Parliament

Role: Shadow Leader of the House of Commons

Constituency: Walsall South (since 2010)

Valerie Vaz is one of the stayovers from the Corbyn era, retaining the same position, and she has voted in favour of all LGBTQ-related legislation since she entered Parliament in 2010.

Nick Brown

UK Parliament

Role: Shadow Chief Whip

Constituency: Newcastle-upon-Tyne East (since 1983)

Nick Brown is another LGBTQ member of the Shadow Cabinet, but sadly he didn’t come out as a personal choice, as he was outed while serving as Agriculture Minister in 1998.

But as a veteran MP, Nick has been in the House of Commons for a host of major votes when it comes to LGBTQ rights.

He has voted in favour of every LGBTQ rights bill in Parliament since he entered, only being absent for the third and final reading of same-sex marriage bill, although on other readings of the bill he had voted in favour.

Baroness Smith of Basildon

Role: Shadow Leader of the House of Lords

Constituency: N/A (life peerage since 2010, previously represented Basildon from 1997-2010)

The Baroness Smith of Basildon wasn’t part of the Commons during debates on same-sex marriage, but as an MP from 1997-2010, she was present for debates on the Equality Act, the repeal of Section 28 and introducing an equal age of consent.

Although she was absent for bills legalising adoption by gay people and civil partnerships, as well as the Gender Recognition Act and the repeal of Section 28, she was involved in other votes. And during votes on the equalising the age of consent and the Equality Act, she voted in favour.

Lord McAvoy

UK Parliament

Role: Shadow Chief Whip in the Lords

Constituency: N/A (life peerage since 2010, previously represented Rutherglen and Hamilton West from 1987-2010)

The Lord McAvoy was a longtime MP before joining the House of Lords and came across a large amount of LGBTQ-related issues during this time. And for the most part, he was an ally.

He voted to repeal Section 28, although not for reports to be published to see how schools were progressing, and in favour of an equal age of consent, gay people to adopt, civil partnerships and the Equality Act.

However, he voted against legislation that would allow mixed-sex marriage to become same-sex ones if someone transitioned.

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