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Health Secretary preaches LGBTI rights but snubs Northern Ireland marriage equality

Matt Hancock speaking at Pride Parliamentary Reception, Westminster, 4 July 2019

Matt Hancock speaking at Pride Parliamentary Reception, Westminster, 4 July 2019

Actions speak louder than words – isn’t that what we are told? I was delighted to attend the Pink News Westminster event last night at Church House.  An opportunity for me to speak with the LGBT community and MPs, and tell them of our campaign for marriage equality in Northern Ireland.

 

Speakers included Chuka Umunna MP, Michael Gove MP, Emily Thornberry MP and Matt Hancock MP.

Matt Hancock, the current Health Secretary, used his speech at the reception to promote his Department’s review into IVF equality for LGBTI couples.

Shortly after, I approached him, introducing myself and the campaign, and asked for his support. It was immediately clear that he was not interested. I was directed to his assistant and even he was hesitant to give any inkling of support. 

Of course, Matt has every right to align himself with whatever campaign he chooses, but this is very frustrating. Minutes after giving a speech about the importance of LGBTI inclusion and support, to a room full of LGBTI people, he snubbed the opportunity to turn words into action. 

Should this be a surprise? Of the numerous MPs who’ve supported our campaign so far, only one, Crispin Blunt, is a Tory. Clearly, their desire to stay in power, propped up by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), is more important than equality for Northern Irish LGBTI people.

It’s also not the first inconsistency in the Health Secretary’s LGBTI policy. In January 2019, he set a goal for no new HIV infections by 2030, but six months on thousands of at-risk gay men still cannot access the preventative medicine Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) on the NHS, where it is being trialled. In contrast, Scotland has provided the drug for free since 2017.  

A ground breaking new study of nearly 1000 gay men released by The Lancet has found zero cases of HIV transmission when a person is on effective treatment. Matt Hancock is denying gay men this assurane of health, which should surely be of greater priority than IVF. 

Our #LoveIsAllWeHave campaign has been running throughout Pride month and is calling for same-sex marriage to be legalised in Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK where it’s still banned. Celebrities including Stephen Fry & Matt Lucas, senior politicians like Vince Cable MP, Caroline Lucas MP and Emily Thornberry MP, as well as members of the public, have already backed the campaign. The flagship video has gone viral, gathering over 100K views online. 

The DUP used its veto to block a majority-supported proposal legalising same-sex marriage in the Northern Irish Assembly in 2015. Whilst Stormont is suspended, Westminster is responsible for securing same-sex marriage equality in the region. A new cross-party amendment to the  Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill is being tabled by Conor McGinn next week. If successful this would see marriage equality reaching Northern Ireland by the end of October.  

You can pressure your MP to back this amendment and support marriage equality in Northern Ireland. It’s quick & simple:

  1. Find your MPs contact details here – https://www.parliament.uk/

  2. Put your postcode in the email title

  3. Ask them to support the amendment & marriage equality in N. Ireland

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Matthew Hyndman

Matthew’s work in social change began in rural Northern Ireland and has taken him to Malawi, Liberia, and South East Asia where he did voluntary work for two years. He graduated in Film in 2012. His interests include, LGBT+ rights within the Christian and sports context. Matt’s role as Creative Lead requires him to have his finger firmly on the pulse of all things creative at Shape History. His main responsibilities include filming and editing projects, brainstorming new concepts, and working with clients to deliver empowering and inspiring work.

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