What are the UK Prime Minister hopefuls' stances on LGBTQ+ rights?

by Hugo Greenhalgh | @hugo_greenhalgh | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 20 July 2022 16:15 GMT

British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, British Home Secretary Priti Patel and British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss attend a session at the House of Commons, in London, Britain, April 19, 2022. UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY MANDATORY CREDIT. IMAGE MUST NOT BE ALTERED.

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Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are the finalists to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister - here's where they stand on LGBTQ+ issues

As British lawmakers Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss face off in the final battle to become the country's next Prime Minister, they are under scrutiny over their stances on LGBTQ+ rights.

Conservative party members will choose between former Chancellor of the Exchequer Sunak and Foreign Secretary Truss, with the winner announced by September 5.

Transgender rights, particularly the issue of trans women, has become a hot button topic in the race. Many candidates have pledged a "war on woke" in debates over gender-neutral language, trans participation in sport, and what it is to be a woman.

Here's what we know about where both candidates stand:

What concerns do LGBTQ+ campaigners have?

They are mostly about trans rights.

The government has previously said it would exclude transgender people from a planned ban on so-called conversion therapy, drawing anger and criticism from LGBTQ+ groups.

There have also been hot debates over trans inclusion and perceived clashes with women's rights - from trans participation in sport to the right to self-certify gender on official documents.

Numerous candidates have waded into cultural clashes over the definition of a woman and gender-neutral language that some feminists say erases women and which LGBTQ+ groups say promotes equality and inclusion.

Which of the two is most likely to be favourable to LGBTQ+ rights?

Truss has faced the most flak from LGBTQ+ campaigners, after moving to limit trans rights.

As Equalities Minister - a role she holds alongside being Foreign Minister - she oversaw the government's decision to exclude trans people from the planned conversion therapy ban.

Truss also scrapped proposals to allow gender "self-identification", which would allow trans people to change their gender on official documents without having to go through a medical approval process.

LGBTQ+ campaigners say that the current self-ID process is too cumbersome, while opponents argue the move could allow predatory men access to women-only spaces such as toilets. 

Sunak has not taken a public stance on trans issues.

An unnamed ally of Sunak told the Daily Mail newspaper this month that he was "critical of recent trends to erase women via the use of clumsy, gender neutral language", and will oppose trans women competing in women's sport.

In the past, Sunak has said that trans people should be "respected". 

What is their track record on voting on LGBTQ+ rights?

Sunak joined parliament in 2015. As such, he was not present for milestone votes such as the move to legalise same-sex marriage in 2013, promoted by then Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron.

Truss, who became an MP in 2010, voted in favour of gay marriage, following the 2013 vote with a further nod for same-sex marriage among Britain's armed forces a year later.

According to TheyWorkForYou, a website that tracks lawmakers' voting records, Truss was absent – as Foreign Secretary – for two votes on LGBTQ+ issues, but has never voted against LGBTQ+ rights.

Sunak was also absent for two votes when the government pushed through marriage equality in Northern Ireland in 2019, but as a key member of the British Cabinet this should not be seen as an indication of his views.

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