Kemi Badenoch, minister for equalities and Saffron Walden MP. (Chris McAndrew/Official portrait of Kemi Badenoch)
LGBT+ advocates are “alarmed” by the revelation that Conservative equalities minister Kemi Badenoch met with anti-trans hate group LGB Alliance last summer.
In December, Ofcom boss Melanie Dawes told MPs it’s “entirely inappropriate” to quote the LGB Alliance on trans-related issues, saying it would be akin to quoting racist organisations on issues related to racial equality.
Since it launched in October 2019, the LGB Alliance, which strongly denies it is transphobic, has been branded a “hate group” by many in the LGBT+ community, including Pride in London, gay SNP MP John Nicolson, the LGBT+ Lib Dems, gay Scottish actor David Paisley, and the Labour Campaign for Trans Rights.
And the pressure group has faced heavy criticism for refusing to denounce its neo-Nazi and homophobe supporters, for backing co-founder Malcom Clark’s view that schools should not have LGBT+ clubs because of “predatory gay teachers“, and for standing by co-founder Bev Jackson defending working with the anti-abortion and anti-LGBT+ Heritage Foundation.
“It’s completely inappropriate for the equalities minister to meet with the LGB Alliance,” Nicolson told openDemocracy. “The minister should focus on those advancing the cause of equality.”
Nicolson, the SNP MP for Ochil and South Perthshire, faced targeted harassment and abuse from the group’s supporters after publicly voicing support for the trans community at the start of 2020. He has since been outspoken against the LGB Alliance’s attempts to register as a UK charity.
Ria Patel, co-chair of LGBTIQA+ Greens, called Badenoch’s meeting with the LGB Alliance “deeply concerning”. She said: “Their founders repeatedly make inflammatory and unpleasant remarks [against transgender people]… It is baffling that an equalities minister would see the value of meeting with this group.”
And in a statement sent to openDemocracy, LGBT+ Liberal Democrats said Badenoch’s meeting with the group “displays an appalling lack of understanding of the issues at best; at worst, it is crass, offensive and possibly evidence of a bias against trans people that should render the minister unfit to make any judgements or decisions on the subject”.
Shortly after Boris Johnson appointed Badenoch junior equalities minister in February 2019, it emerged that she had abstained on the extension of same-sex marriage to Northern Ireland.
And Badenoch has been heavily criticised this week for publicly sharing a HuffPost journalist’s comment request, which “prompted a Twitter pile-on from some very abusive extremists” according to the journalist’s boss. Labour condemned her actions as exposing the journalist to a “torrent of abuse” and called for an investigation.
The Labour Campaign for Trans Rights called the LGB Alliance a “trans-exclusionary hate group” in a list of pledges vowing to rid the party of transphobia during the 2020 Labour leadership race, which were signed by Labour MPs including Lisa Nandy, Angela Rayner, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Nadia Whittome and Emily Thornberry. Keir Starmer was the only leadership contender not to sign.
Chiara Capraro from Amnesty UK called on the government to be “fully transparent about who they meet to discuss issues that affect trans people”.
“We have seen an alarming escalation of transphobic views being legitimised in public debate,” Capraro told openDemocracy, insisting that the government must do more to ensure that the human rights of trans people are “guaranteed and improved”.
The LGB Alliance’s founders told openDemocracy they “are happy to confirm that we had a useful and productive meeting with Kemi Badenoch on 13 July 2020”.
A UK government spokesperson told openDemocracy that Badenoch’s meeting with the group was “entirely appropriate” and that “views from all sides of the debate were heard”.