First Published: December 2003
       This is an OutUK Archive Item and so some of the links and information may be out of date.

2003 has been a rollercoaster of a year even without considering the impact of the UK going to war. Out UK's Adrian Gillan has been talking to leading figures in our community about how events in 2003 have affected gay people in particular and their hopes and fears for 2004.

Peter Tatchell
Human Rights Campaigner

My highs? The new employment protection for LGBTs; the repeal of Section 28 (about bloody time!); the OutRage! protest forcing the Anglican Synod to discuss gay issues; and new legislative initiatives to ensure same-sex partnership rights and tougher action on homophobic hate crimes.

My lows? The failure of the new anti-discrimination law to cover discrimination in housing, insurance and other services; the government's refusal to require local authorities to tackle homophobic prejudice and harassment; the Archbishop of Canterbury's appeasement of bigoted clerics like the Archbishop of Nigeria; the continuation of the ban on same-sex marriage and the exclusion of unmarried heterosexuals from the new civil partnership register; the non-prosecution of reggae singers who advocate shooting, burning and drowning of gay people (proof that the police and Crown Prosecution Service have no serious commitment to cracking down on homophobic hate crimes); and the Sexual Offences Bill, which introduces five years jail for any consenting sexual contact (including a mere kiss or caress!) involving young people under 16, even when they are the same or similar ages.

A wish for 2004? Leading on from the last point - an age of consent of 14, backed up by earlier, better quality sex education for both gay and straight kids.

Ben Summerskill
Chief Executive Stonewall

What a fantastic year! Will Young topped the album charts. Lesbian Alex won Fame Academy. There's no doubt that British society is changing.

The death of Section 28 last summer was one of the proudest moments of my life. But for every gay pop star, there are still a thousand people who can't come out: at school, at home, at work. During 2004, Stonewall wants to put right some of the damage done over the last fifteen years by Section 28. We'll be launching an Education for All campaign to combat the homophobic bullying that has gone unchallenged for far too long in British schools.

Of course, we'll also be campaigning for partnership rights to finally become law. If we succeed then, at last, young gay people will grow up knowing they have the same entitlements as their straight friends. It's a huge prize. And at Stonewall, we'll be working every hour of every day during 2004 to make sure it happens.

Nick Partridge
Chief Executive Terrence Higgins Trust

What a year indeed! With the long overdue repeal of Section 28 - which has undermined the provision of effective sex education for young people - and the announcement of partnership rights for same-sex couples, we are closer than ever to the open and accepting society for which we have fought so hard and waited so long to see.

However, the condemnation by the Vatican of gay relationships along with a claim that condoms cannot stop HIV reminds us of the powerful lobbies which are still working to deny us equal rights and recognition.

In 2004, we hope to see further progress in giving more people with HIV across the world access to drug treatments. And in the UK, we want to see the number of gay men being newly infected drop dramatically. So this is your New Year's challenge - what are you all going to do to help?

Richard Kirker
General Secretary Lesbian & Gay Christian Movement

There's been no escape this year for LGBT people in Britain from the stubborn influence of the multi-million pound lobbying businesses that comprise the 'religious right'. It's tempting to try and ignore - or dismiss - the existence of these powerful and influential networks that pass unnoticed to all but twitching lobby-watchers. After all, they don't appear to directly affect a significant proportion of our community: so that's alright then!

Far from adopting the insular or ostrich position, LGBT Christians in particular - with good reason - know we have a duty to confront the reality of homophobia still deeply ingrained in religious institutions. What sank Jeffrey John's appointment as Bishop of Reading if not a naked and craven capitulation to fear and ignorance? Who is responsible for opt-out clauses in the Employment Regulations for faith-based groups if not the same well-organised clique that runs our churches and who have bizarre influence over a Prime Minister sympathetic to their prejudices? Seven trade unions - to their credit, albeit belatedly - woke up to the threat and are organising a critical Judicial Review. But this would not have been necessary if the Government understood the mere basics of what is needed to defend us from bigots.

The political left - and all LGBT organisations - have yet again been outmanoeuvred and outwitted in the last 12 months, by the far more astute religious right over this basic question of employment rights. Can these forces be ignored at the very time Civil Partnership legislation makes it way through Parliament? Unless we make a consistent stand, we have no chance of defeating fundamentalism - Jewish, Islamic or Christian.


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