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UK government disbands LGBT advisory panel after members quit in protest

Boris Johnson's government accused of "dragging its feet" on banning conversion therapy

lgbt advisory panel, boris johnson, government, uk, britain
The Palace of Westminster, which contains the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom — Photo: Marcin Nowak / Unsplash

The UK government has disbanded an LGBTQ advisory panel after three of its members resigned in protest.

Established under former Prime Minister Theresa May as part of the government’s LGBT Action Plan, the panel was intended to advise government ministers on “on issues and policies concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.”

However, BBC News reports that the panel had not met with senior government officials since last year, and last month three members of the panel stepped down.

In doing so, they accused ministers of creating a “hostile environment” for LGBTQ people and said Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government was “dragging its feet” in banning conversion therapy — a widely debunked and harmful practice that claims to forcibly change a person’s sexuality or gender identity.

Now, the panel has been formally disbanded by Equalities Minister Liz Truss, who thanked its members for their “constructive input.”

“I will also be shortly making an announcement concerning the International LGBT Conference and convening a new body that will take international LGBT rights forward,” Truss said in a letter obtained by the BBC.

She added that she was “pressing ahead with our commitment to ban conversion therapy in order to protect LGBT people from these abhorrent practices. I look forward to announcing these measures shortly.”

A government spokesperson added that a replacement for the panel would be established “in due course.”

Jayne Ozanne, director of the Global Interfaith Commission on LGBT Lives and the first of the three panel members to quit, wrote on Twitter that it was “such a shame” that Truss was disbanding the group.

“It was a force for good, where the needs of LGBT people could be heard and understood,” she said. “This does nothing to rebuild trust or reassure LGBT community of their grave concerns.”

According to Conservative MP Crispin Blunt, the leader of the all-party parliamentary group on Global LGBT+ rights, the delays and lack of progress put Prime Minister Johnson “in breach of promise on causes he supports.” 

“The government is led by one of the most socially liberal, live-and-let-live leaders in our history,” he said, “yet it is making a series of unforced errors that will serve to wholly unnecessarily alienate LGBT+ people and do untold damage to his reputation.”

He added that the prime minister’s actions are highly counterintuitive and “it is hardly the moment to dispose of your experts.”

Nancy Kelley, chief executive of LGBTQ advocacy group Stonewall and a member of the LGBT advisory panel, told the BBC that many of the government’s key commitments laid out in its LGBT Action Plan “remain incomplete, including delivering an effective ban on conversion therapy, and the pandemic has only deepened the inequalities LGBTQ people experience, particularly in mental health.”

A spokesperson for Boris Johnson defended the decision to disband the panel, telling The Guardian that the terms of its members were set to expire on March 31 — even though some had expressed a desire to continue to serve.

“The prime minister is immensely proud to live in a country that is one of the most progressive and liberal when it comes to LGBT equality,” the spokesperson said. “The minister for women and equalities has written to all panel members to thank them for their contributions, and plans for a replacement to the panel will be set out in due course.”

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