Parental Involvement in Teaching: Equality Act

Part of Petition - Closure of Heywood Crown Post Office – in the House of Commons at 3:52 pm on 25th June 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Labour/Co-operative, Cardiff South and Penarth 3:52 pm, 25th June 2019

I wholeheartedly agree. It beggars belief that we may be creating situations that will continue to affect that cohort of children, not just at the schools we have been discussing, but plenty of others. The reason the wider LGBT community is so concerned is the signals that are sent when they see Members of Parliament and a teacher being subjected to abuse, when they see mobs outside schools and when they see the types of poster that have been displayed. It makes people feel that perhaps they cannot be who they want to be and live as they want. For young people in particular, that is a massive issue.

In this country, Stonewall was largely founded on the issue of section 28, and we will celebrate the 30-year anniversary at Pride this year. I am proud that one of the founders of Stonewall, Lisa Power, lives in my constituency and is a good friend of mine. I am deeply concerned when I look at the statistics that Stonewall has shared about mental health and the issues young people face: 84% of trans young people have deliberately harmed themselves; the figure for the LGBT community is 61%. Two in five LGBT pupils are never taught anything about LGBT issues and half of LGBT pupils in schools say there is no adult they can talk to about issues affecting them. That litany of self-harm, depression and, in the most extreme circumstances, taking one’s own life should be the concern of anyone in this country who cares about the wellbeing and safety of our young people.

Rather than focusing on some mythological and non-existent situation, we should be focusing on the actual issues that affect young people, because there will be LGBT Muslims and LGBT non-Muslims in those schools: there will be, because they are in our society. One of the saddest things is that every time I speak on these issues, I get emails, phone calls and messages, particularly from gay Muslim men, who tell me about horrific experiences they had growing up. I do not want anyone to go through that, and that is why I think it is absolutely right that the Government introduced the changes in the law, absolutely right that they carried them through as they did, and absolutely right that this House overwhelmingly voted for them.

We heard a lot of legal references from the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hall Green, but little mention of the fact that this House—this sovereign Parliament—passed law stating that there should be LGBT-inclusive education in this country. That is what matters. It is the law. People are of course entirely free to believe and understand their scriptures and religions in any way they choose in their own private life. I might fundamentally disagree with them—I have had many scriptural arguments with fellow Christians who do not agree with my views on human sexuality—but in this country our state sets the law and the guidance. As you will remember, Mr Speaker, I and my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda engaged in sometimes impassioned debates on equal marriage. As a gay Christian and one who believes fervently in my understanding of my own faith, it is for me to argue with God and with fellow Christians, but the law of this land should protect all and it should protect all characteristics equally, not one over another at certain times, when certain people do not like it and a moral panic is whipped up by those from outside.

I hope that we can move on. That are many parts of this country with equally diverse religious communities and diverse understandings of life and how we should all live together. I want a country where we all live together in harmony, peace and respect for one another, not one where children and teachers are subjected to horrific protests outside their schools, and where some of the basic principles that this House has established over many years are questioned.