The U.K. this summer will host a global LGBTQ rights conference that will coincide with London Pride’s 50th anniversary.
The Safe to Be Me Conference will take place in London from June 29-July 1.
The conference will focus on four areas: Fighting violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, expanding legal protections for LGBTQ people, ensuring equal access to HIV/AIDS treatment and other public services and working with businesses to promote LGBTQ-inclusive practices.
Nick Herbert, a member of the British House of Lords who advises British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on LGBTQ issues, on March 24 told the Washington Blade during a telephone interview the criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual relations is one of the issues the conference will highlight. Herbert also said he expects Johnson will be among those who will speak at the event.
“There is a huge enthusiasm for this event, a feeling that it is very timely, that it’s important for like-minded countries to get together … but also to try and bring other countries to the event that are on the journey towards LGBT+ rights and we encourage them to move in the right direction,” said Herbert. “I’m excited about the potential for this event, which I think could do real good.”
The Equal Rights Coalition, a group the U.K. currently co-chairs with Argentina, seeks to promote LGBTQ rights around the world.
Herbert said an Equal Rights Coalition meeting will take place in London on June 28, the day before the conference begins. The London Pride parade will happen on July 2.
Ruling against marriage equality in Bermuda, Cayman Islands ‘difficult’
Herbert spoke with the Blade ahead of the expected introduction of a bill in the British Parliament that would ban so-called conversion therapy in England and Wales. The interview took place less than two weeks after the Privy Council’s Judicial Committee blocked marriage for same-sex couples in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.
“I was personally sorry to see that decision, but I respect the fact that it is a decision by a court and we have to respect the legal process,” said Herbert, referring to the March 14 ruling. “Some people have been urging the U.K. government to step in … these are sovereign countries with their own elected parliaments and stepping in to override them would not be a small thing. And you could see it as a form of neocolonialism.”
“It is difficult,” he added. “What they need to do is to work with those countries to try and persuade them to change their own laws.”
‘Situation in Ukraine is deeply worrying’
The conference will begin less than five months after Russia invaded Ukraine.
“The situation in Ukraine is deeply worrying,” said Herbert. “It is appalling to see the impact on people in Ukraine.”
“We need to do everything that we can to help them, and that will include LGBT+ people,” he added. “Where there are special circumstances affecting LGBT+ people, we need to address those and I have been in discussions with other governments and officials about that.”
Herbert told the Blade that “what is happening in Ukraine does mean that we have to reassert our values; which are about the importance of human rights, of democracy, of self-determination.”
“The values that we bring to our conference in June are the same values,” he said. “I do see what we are doing in June is being consistent with the stance we are taking in Ukraine.”
The British government last fall helped evacuate two groups of LGBTQ Afghans from Afghanistan after the Taliban regained control of the country. Herbert told the Blade that “this work continues” with the U.N. and NGOs that include Stonewall in the U.K. and Rainbow Railroad in Canada.
“We continue to work to provide a safe place for LGBT+ refugees from Afghanistan,” he said. “We have a specific program to welcome people who are fleeing the regime in Afghanistan and we’ve identified LGBT+ people as potentially vulnerable who will need our help.”