Party presidential election statements
By Zoe O'Connell
Every two years, the party elects a new president and all members as of the cut-off date in September have the opportunity to vote - ballot forms should reach you in the next day or so. The 2012 election was uncontested but this year, with current president Tim Farron having reached his term limit, there are three candidates.
LGBT+ invited all candidates to submit a short statement in support of their candidature and these are reproduced below. The order of the statements was decided by drawing lots on behalf of the candidates.
We are quite rightly proud of our many achievements in the Coalition, especially of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 - it started as a motion from LGBT+ to the 2010 autumn conference and was taken by a Liberal Democrat Minister and made into law - true democracy at work. A life changing law for many couples which underlines the Liberal Democrats' commitment to equality. There is still more work to do in this area and in others. We must fight for the rights of Lesbian and Gay people around the world - many are still persecuted and denied basic freedoms - and continue to campaign against homophobic bullying, for better sex education and for clearer definition of the rights for people of transgender.
As Party President my immediate priority will be to maximise the number of Liberal Democrats elected as MPs and Councillors next May. We must then look at our party structures to ensure they are fit for purpose. Whilst campaigning around the country it has become clear that many activists see a disconnect between them locally and the party in Westminster. All party committees and organisations must be open, transparent and accountable. Part of this review must include the role of SAOs, to ensure they are supported and working towards shared goals. The membership of our committees and Parliamentary party must reflect the diversity of the country, as should the membership of our Party, to achieve this we need to target recruitment and ensure we are working with every community.
One of the proudest moments in my 40 years as a Lib Dem has been being a part of the Lords team on the Same Sex Marriage Act: whilst we still need to resolve civil partnerships for all, and the key trans marriage matters, now being able to attend the marriages of same sex friends is an embodiment of liberal freedom, and righting a long overdue wrong.
But there is still much work to do on homophobia. I am one of the co-chairs of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Bullying, and tackling homophobic bullying in schools has been an important part of our work. As a party we must work to eradicate homophobic bullying, as well as keep pressure up on those countries which persist in making same sex relationships illegal. I will continue to stand up against LGBT discrimination.
There are many more things the Liberal Democrats have achieved since 2010 of which we can be proud, but the cost to the Party we love has been hard to take. I believe that the next Party President will not just have to take us through the General Election, but support Liberal Democrats as we find ourselves, our passion for our liberal principles, and our love of helping our communities once more. I have experience as a senior change manager outside the party, as well as knowing the party at all levels.
Visit my website www.salbrinton.co.uk to see my action plan of what I want us to achieve.
I've actively supported LGBT+ rights during my career. In 2011 for the first time, Commonwealth leaders discussed the decriminalisation of homosexuality (42 of its 53 countries have not repealed the relevant colonial laws). For years the debate had not moved beyond Commonwealth Law Ministers, so whilst leaders did not make an unequivocal commitment, the fact they discussed it did represent progress. To help secure this I used my position as Director of the independent Commonwealth think-tank to exert pressure on Commonwealth governments publicly and behind the scenes.
I worked closely with officials and at the same time launched our Summit Policy Briefing that called for a commitment to decriminalise homosexuality, with two high-profile events. Albie Sachs, the veteran South African anti-apartheid campaigner delivered a moving keynote speech in London about the role of LGBT activists in the struggle against apartheid and the case for realising their rights in post-apartheid South Africa: I successfully predicted that African and Caribbean government representatives would feel obliged to attend because of his status and report back to their capitals. During the negotiations in Australia, I ran a similar event with the LGBT societies of the four Perth Universities.
At Hacked Off, I initiated work with Trans Media Watch and other groups to highlight the fact that aside from hacking, press abuse such as discriminatory reporting continues.
I believe that equal marriage is a landmark achievement. I'm incredibly proud that LGBT+ Lib Dems are leading calls for equal rights at home and abroad and as your President, I would give you my unwavering support.