Out In The City


Quiz Foreign Office Minister Chris Bryant

chrisbryantChris Bryant (pictured far left), the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) Minister for Europe, is to host a video Q&A on LGBT rights across Europe, and the role that the FCO can play in improving the recognition of civil partnerships. The event will take place next week, on Wednesday 17 March, and the FCO is asking people to submit questions via text or video for Mr Bryant to answer.

The Q&A follows an event (pictured above) that Bryant held at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London on 25 February 2010, in conjunction with Stonewall, in which he outlined the ways in which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is continuing to campaign for LGBT rights across the EU and to promote mutual recognition of Civil Partnership laws in EU member states.

Although most people believe that the LGBT community have equality in the eyes of the law in the UK, the fact that other countries in Europe lag behind us can still effect British citizens in a variety of ways.

Firstly, it can affect the movement of labour around the EU. If a UK-based civil partner working within a large organisation is offered a position in another country, that country’s attitude towards same-sex partnerships – and their validity – may have huge consequences on his or her relocation.

At the moment, there are 14 EU countries (including the UK) where you can register your same-sex partnerships. However, each country has its own type of same-sex partnership scheme, and only two of those (France and Spain) currently have an agreement in place to recognise UK civil partnerships. This means that if civil partners here wanted to relocate to somewhere such a the Netherlands, to be recognised as a same-sex couple in that country they would have to dissolve their partnership in the UK and get married again in the Netherlands. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office is currently engaged in trying to change this far-from-perfect situation, with the ideal position being that all EU states would mutually recognise legally observed same-sex partnerships.

There are still several EU states considerably less friendly towards LGBT rights, which don’t offer or recognise any civil same-sex unions. In some such countries, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is able to offer civil partnership ceremonies in its consulates, but there remain 11 EU states – including Italy and Poland – that have forbidden British consulates offering such ceremonies. Again, this is a matter that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office continues to address, but it already – in a sign of solidarity with the LGBT communities in such countries – allows British consulates to fly the rainbow flag to coincide with local Pride festivals. At the event, Mr Bryant quoted from a letter from one British lesbian who, upon seeing this symbolic act whilst abroad, felt deep pride that her country showed such support for her sexuality.

Mr Bryant, who is himself having a civil partnership in the House Of Commons soon, said that he felt immensely proud of the work that the Foreign Office was doing in this area, and, to avoid accusations that he might be pursuing a personal crusade, pointed out that the FCO had a strong position on LGBT issues long before he took up his current role. He said that he felt some people were selective in their approach to human rights, preferring to gloss over LGBT issue, or deny them all together. “Human rights are a seamless garment. You can’t talk about some human rights and not others... When someone else’s human rights are abused, so are mine.”

Mr Bryant is now keen to take questions from anyone regarding these issues. To submit a question, or to vote in favour of any previously submitted question, check the Q&A web page here: http://www.google.com/moderator/#16/e=4d2d

Posted: 10 March 2010

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