Lib Dems pledge to legally recognise non-binary identities in election manifesto

The Liberal Democrats’ leader Sir Ed Davey has launched his party’s 2024 election manifesto, with pledges to recognise non-binary identities in law and remove medical reports from the gender recognition process, amongst other LGBTQ+-focused promises.

Davey, who has served as the party’s leader since 2020, unveiled the 114-page, “carefully costed” manifesto document at an event in London on Monday (10 June).

The Lib Dems are the first party to publish their election manifesto ahead of the general election on 4 July and have branded the document a “manifesto to save the NHS”, with promises that include people being able to see a GP within 7 days – 24 hours if it is urgent – guaranteed cancer treatment within two months and mental health professionals in schools.

Amongst plans centred on the NHS and health and social care, the Lib Dems manifesto contains a number of policies related to the LGBTQ+ community and equality issues.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey speaks at the party’s manifesto launch on June 10, 2024 in London, England (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

What does the Lib Dem manifesto say about equality and LGBTQ+ issues?

In the summary to the ‘rights and equality’ section of the document, the party states it exists to “build a free society where every person’s rights and liberties are protected” and champions the “freedom, dignity and wellbeing of every individual”.

“Everyone should be able to live their lives as who they are: free to pursue their dreams and fulfil their potential, safe in the knowledge that their fundamental rights will be protected,” the summary reads.

The party states in the past “the UK has led the world in advancing human rights, civil liberties and equality for women, LGBT+ people and disabled people” but under the Conservatives “progress has stalled”.

“We believe that the UK’s rich diversity is one of its greatest strengths. We will celebrate that diversity and ensure it is better reflected throughout public life. We will apply the principles of openness, transparency and accountability to tackle institutional biases, promote equality and hold power to account.”

Conversion therapy, gender recognition and non-binary identities

Within this section of the manifesto, the Lib Dems state they will “respect and defend the rights of people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, including trans and non-binary people”.

They pledge to ban all forms of conversion therapies and practices – a legislative move which has been languishing in parliament for a number of years.

Conversion therapy refers to efforts to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity in a bid to “cure” them.

Banning conversation therapy was first promised by the Tories back in 2018 under Theresa May’s government. However, May’s successor, Boris Johnson, attempted to quietly scrap the legislation but made a U-turn just days later after a public outcry – only for the government to then say it would exclude trans people from the ban

This was eventually – allegedly – reversed, with plans for the bill to be inclusive of all LGBTQ+ identities, but following the announcement of the general election the future of the bill is uncertain.

LGBT+ Liberal Democrats take part in the Pride in London parade on 1 July 2023 in London (Mark Kerrison/In Pictures via Getty Images)

In their manifesto, the Lib Dems also promise to reform the gender recognition process to “remove the requirement for medical reports”, remove the spousal veto and recognise non-binary identities in law.

Non-binary identities are currently recognised in law in several countries including Australia and India, but not the United Kingdom.

This has been challenged in the courts by Ryan Castellucci, a non-binary American citizen living in the UK, who notes their gender identity is recognised on their California birth certificate and driving licence but not any UK documentation.

“But the UK cannot refuse to provide legal recognition for non-binary people forever, eventually they will relent. There is no question about that,” Castellucci told PinkNews in 2023. “Eventually, it becomes an international human rights issue where they start looking bad after everybody else is recognised.”

Removing the requirement for medical reports in the gender recognition process has been a topic steeped in controversy, with a number of parties which previously supported self-ID – such as the Labour party – U-turning on the policy.

In another LGBTQ+ focused pledge, the Lib Dems state they will require ‘large employers’ to “monitor and publish data on gender, ethnicity, disability, and LGBT+ employment levels, pay gaps and progression, and publish five-year aspirational diversity targets”.

A number of organisations already publish such data of their own free will, such as Oxford City Council.

Protections for international LGBTQ+ people

In section 18 of the manifesto, entitled ‘immigration and asylum’, the Lib Dems pledge to provide safe and legal routes to sanctuary for refugees by “offering asylum to people fleeing the risk of violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identification, ending the culture of disbelief for LGBT+ asylum seekers, and never refusing an LGBT+ applicant on the basis that they could be discreet”.

As PinkNews has previously reported, LGBTQ+ refugees who sought safety in the UK have been denied asylum because Home Office staff do not believe they are queer, have been housed with homophobic and transphobic people in detention centres and have been “vilified and demonised” by the system.

Alongside this, in section 22, the party states it will develop a “comprehensive strategy for promoting the decriminalisation of homosexuality and advancing LGBT+ rights” internationally.

More than 30 per cent of the world’s countries still criminalise LGBTQ+ people for engaging in consensual same-sex acts, ILGA World’s publication Laws on Us found in May 2024.

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