Friday, June 15, 2007

Govt moves on Mental Health Act - gives credit to UNISON

Press release here detailing Government amendments to the Mental Health Bill which represent significant movement and go a long way to meeting campaigners' legitimate concerns in a number of areas.

UNISON along with other trade unions are specifically mentioned as having made representations to the Government (on the issue of Supervised Community Treatment).

So far as I can tell, the Mental Health Alliance put up a statement welcoming these changes, then took it down again and then put one back up saying, amongst other things:

Our members will welcome the fact that the Government has begun to listen to and act upon the concerns of the people who live and work with the Mental Health Act. We hope that today’s changes mark the beginning of a new government approach to this issue that will lead to a genuine consensus before the Bill becomes law.

We believe that the Government and the Mental Health Alliance can still work together to deliver a new Act that is defensible and workable.

Is this the opening of a genuine era of co-operation breaking out? Given the Tories and Liberal Democrats have their minds seriously set on mauling the Government (of course that is the role of opposition parties, so I'm not criticising them for that) I harbour some doubts - we may be in for a very long ping pong.

The Mental Health Alliance is still wanting exclusions which are, in my view, patronising toward LGBT people and suggests that in some way being lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans is a mental illness. We all know this isn't the case, so the exclusion is unhelpful as it suggests the opposite.

Firstly being of one sexual orientation would never be able to meet the stringent tests contained in the Mental Health Act for compulsory admission, secondly because the law in Council of Europe countries on sexual orientation and gender identity is actually very clear and thirdly because UK legislation is explicit in recognising the legitimate existence of LGBT people (examples including Civil Partnerships, Gender Recognition, protection from discrimination in employment, goods and services and in the exercise of public functions - including acts under the Mental Health Act and finally the Bill contains 'fundamental principles' including non-discrimination and the least restrictive alternative.

Empty scaremongering versus equality

But at the same time some of the professional groupings in the Alliance (especially Psychiatrists) could do a lot more to promote services that are supportive to LGBT people and do more to challenge discriminatory attitudes that still abound in psychiatric practice.

No, not trying to lock you up for being gay but not really listening to you either, or not creating a safe environment for LGBT people (staff and clients) to be out or always seeing a person's sexual orientation or gender identity as the case of their mental distress, even when it has nothing to do with it.

Rather than joining in the scaremongering we should be demanding that as professionals in charge of NHS care we start to put our own house in order.

For the Government's pages on LGBT equality in the NHS (the Department of Health's Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Advisory Group) with some fantastic material the Government is producing on sexual orientation and gender identity.

There's some really great stuff there, but as we all know getting it put into practice when discriminatory attitudes go very deep is the real challenge. So in addition to all of the Government's other progress in dealing with discrimination, there is an urgent need to extend the equality duty to cover all strands of equality inlcuding sexual orientation and gender identity.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Bid to reverse same sex marriage in Massachusetts fails

News just in.

Lawmakers in Massachusetts have voted 45 to 151 to defeat the proposed constitutional amendment. It had already received votes in one session and needed votes in a second to be placed on the 2008 ballot (there only need to be 50 votes in favour in two sessions to allow the amendment to go to ballot). The next opportunity to place the question on the ballot will be 2012.

You can see the news here.

The bid to kill off the amendment was supported by the leaders of both Houses and the State Governor Deval Patrick.

Some really good pictures of the day here.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Single Equality Act proposals now out

These have just been made public by the Government.

The full proposals can be seen here and the press release is here.

The consultation will last until the 4th September 2007.

In addition the Government has published the proposals to add protection against discrimination in goods and services on the grounds of gender reassignment, by way of regulation under the European Communities Act.

Much of the reaction to the proposals is somewhat muted at the moment. TUC, Equal Opportunities Commission, Disability Rights Commission,

There are no clear proposals at this stage for an equality duty acorss all strands of equality or for harmonising provisionson harassment.

It will obviously be important to make sure there are forceful voices pushing the Government to use this once in a generation opportunity to actually deliver a lasting legacy, a step change in creating a more equal society, with the promise of real change.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Time to Vote!!

Labour's deputy leadership election is now in full swing.

If you are a member of the Labour Party (well duh....) or a member of a trade union and pay the political levy you have a vote (as well as members of Socialist Societies - including LGBT Labour) you will have the chance to vote. The elction is divided into three sections, each of which has a third of the final vote (MP's, MEP's; Party members; affiliated trade union members and socialist societies).

Please use your vote(s)!!

It is vital for ordinary people to be able to have a say and that is why the Labour Party is set up in the way it is, allowing millions to have a say in the elctions for Leader and Deputy Leader.

(I should say at this point that I would have wanted to have had an election for Leader - but not an artificially created one with a candidate who needed people to nominate him just to get him on the ballot (even if they had no inention of voting for him and didn't think he'd be any good as a Prime Minister) - what would have been the purpose of that?).

So now it's time to get voting!!

I am supporting Peter Hain (this may by now be a statement of the "bleedin' obvious" but it's good to let everyone know where you stand). I think he has fought a good campaign, has solid values and will be a real asset as a Deputy Leader in ensuring that we establish a genuinely progressive agenda that will sustain a progressive government over a fourth term.

He has a good basis of support from Trade Unions, a genuinely radical past (in the Anti-apartheid movement), good ministerial experience (notably in Northern Ireland), a clear commitment to equality and human rights (again his clear determination to bring in equality laws against stiff opposition in Northern Ireland) and a clear sense of direction as to how Labour can make a difference in government to ordinary working people.

If you are voting for another candidate please use your second preference vote for Peter Hain (the winner is unlikely to be elected on 1st preferences alone and the second preference only comes into play when your preferred candidate has been eliminated).


  1. Voting is by preference (1,2,3 etc) if you use a cross it won't count
  2. You don't have to use all of your preferences - preferences are only used if your preferred candidate is eliminated
  3. If you are using a union or socialist society vote remember to tick the declaration box to say you support the Labour Party and aren't a member of another party (or your vote won't count)
  4. Vote by returning your ballot paper in the envelope provided or to the address on the ballot form (if you lose the envelope you can still vote.......) by the closing date.

If you want any more reasons to vote for Peter Hain you will find them aplenty on Lou's Blog or of course, Peter Hain's campaign site.