Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Seriously from the TUC LGBT Conference

I haven't blogged for a bit, mainly too tired after TUC LGBT Conf and the aftermath of NDC (also a bit of a news lull?).

Anyway TUC LGBT Conference held as usual just ahead of Pride in London.

A number of topics were debated, particular motions this year included the current inadequacy of legal protections with regard to gender identity, blood donation (again), education, community cohesion , international LGBT equality and asylum seekers.

The motion selected for Congress was a composite motion deploring the appointment of Joel Edwards to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

With regard to the latter there were many, many angry and impassioned speeches which I must admit left me rather unmoved and I'm not sure what message is being sent about our collective sense of insecurity about the appointment of an evangelical who has made statements of support for anti-discrimination law (though he is most likely to be somewhat ahead of his erstwhile employer on this - the Evangelical Alliance, whilst far from the worst in terms of position on LGBT issues, does not have a shining record to be proud of - there is however more joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, so you never know......).

If there were any evidence that Joel Edwards was intending to attack LGBT rights that would indeed unfit him to the position of a Commissioner for equality and human rights - I await any evidence of such evidence with baited breath.

The other area arousing very great passion is the perennial one about the so-called "blood ban" and the rather funny (if not actually meant seriously) statement "it's my blood and I'll give to whoever I want to".

This is of course precisely the point. The recipients of blood products might not want to sacrifice themselves on the altar of people who suffer grievous psychological damage because they can't give blood.

On this issue I favour UNISON's more principled and thought through position which is to review donor selection criteria in light of actual evidence about risk. The demand to subject heterosexuals to the same restrictions around blood donation is entirely understandable for people who haven't given more than 5 minutes thought as to how "the blood ban can be lifted...." but is actually rather silly when you think about it as it would introduce restrictions on donating where not based on the evidence about risk and would significantly reduce the number of blood donors (even taking account of the small number of new donors gained from gay and bi men).

So I still favour the evidence based, sensible and thought through approach advocated (rightly in my view) by UNISON rather than sloganising rhetoric which may produce a few persuasive soundbites but would reduce the number of donations and increase the risk of HIV infection through donated blood.

As a result of the UNISON amendment being accepted the TUC has now accepted UNISON's approach.

The Conference was to recieve an address by Barbara Follett but she was unable to attend. We did however have an interesting presentation by Vicky Challacombe of the FCO LGBT Toolkit and also kicked off the Conference with a really fantastic presentation on work within schools on LGBT issues.

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