Our beloved mayor Ken has written an opinion piece in the most recent Pink Paper (STILL no proper website — we're going to keep reminding them until they sort this out.) Since we figure most of you don't pick up the Pink Paper on a regular basis, we thought we'd keep you updated with what Ken is saying to the gays.
He begins by briefly praising the Civil Partnership Act which is about to come into force (clearly not heeding Londonist's polite suggestion that he push for full marriage rights). He then turns his attention the Equality Bill, currently working its way through Parliament:
The central plank of the bill is the creation of a new Commission for Equalities and Human Rights. (The Bill will abolish the Commission for Racial Equality and similar bodies.) It will be charged with fighting discrimination in six areas - gender, race and disability, along with sexual orientation, religion and age.
As it stands, however, the Equality Bill is in danger of creating a commission which is not directly representative of those it will speak for. Lobbying by the disability community has secured agreement for one commissioner to be a disabled person and for there to be a disability committee at the new Commission for Equalities and Human Rights, but there is no equally representative and inclusive provision for other communities.
This is why I am supporting the idea of having decision-making committees that represent each of the six equality strands. A guarantee of a voice for those for those who live with inequality seems eminently appropriate for an equality commission.
Pragmatically, it's hard to disagree with Ken's position here, particularly after the disability lobby has already won the right for guaranteed representation.
At the same time, his position runs the risk of institutionalising tokenism. And it's hard to feel just a little uncomfortable about the implications of the assumption that only a gay person can recognize anti-gay prejudice. Carrying the logic further, one might ask if a wheelchair user is in a position to evaluate inequality directed at the blind, or a gay man is in a position to evaluate a claim of discrimination made by a transgendered woman. Eventually one would need a very big commission indeed.
But Ken's is, in the end, probably the best solution — experience shows us that the able-bodied very often actually don't see the discrimination that is glaringly obvious to a disabled person, that the young often don't see the prejudices that the elderly face. There's a good chance that guaranteed representatives of the six populations named in the Commission's remit would have a real effect.
And let's pretend for the sake of argument that they were purely a token gesture — without those tokens, the credibility of the Commission would be fatally compromised. As Ken points out, an all-white, all-male Commission for Equalities would not be taken very seriously.