London Mayor Boris Johnson has been accused of “scaremongering” after urging gay voters to back Brexit because their rights are under threat across much of the European Union (EU).
Mr. Johnson — one of the most senior and doubtless the most prominent of Tory Brexit campaigners — was lending his support to the new Out and Proud campaign group, recently established to make the LGBT case for voting to leave the EU in June’s referendum.
In a video address played to the group’s first meeting Mr. Johnson celebrates Britain having “the most progressive attitudes towards LGBT issues anywhere in the world,” describing it as “a wonderful thing to see.”
He then asks “did those rights, those freedoms, that spirit come from the EU? Or did it come form people campaigning in our courts, our parliament?”
“It was us,” he states, “the British people that created that environment of happiness and contentment for LGBT people and it is absolutely vital that we fight for those rights today because they are under threat in Poland, in Hungary, in Romania and other parts of the EU where they are not protected in the way they are in our country.”
The Liberal Democrat peer and gay rights campaigner Lord Paddick attacked Mr. Johnson’s claims as “scaremongering”, reports The Independent, saying: “It is distasteful and plain wrong for Boris Johnson to use the LGBT record of countries like Poland as a reason for Britain to leave the EU.”
Lord Paddick pointed out that “any same-sex marriage that is agreed in one EU country must be respected in all others”, however he did not mention that of the EU’s 28 member states six offer no formal recognition of gay relationships in any form, only 12 have legalised gay marriage and eight find that so abhorrent that they have introduced constitutional bans on it.
Further supporting Out and Proud’s case, a recent report from the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights found many central European healthcare workers tasked with helping gay people, see homosexuality as a disease, most notably in Bulgaria, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
Staff in Romanian hospitals reportedly regard gay people as “plague-stricken,” and half of the professionals interviewed there said it’s a kind of mental illness. Bulgarian healthcare professionals admitted gay patients were “regularly mocked and verbally abused” by staff, and one even used the Bulgarian equivalent of the word “faggot” during an interview for the report.
In addition, earlier this month Hungary blocked an EU agreement, drafted by the Dutch government, that sought to diminish discrimination against gay people. In response Liberal Democrat MEP, Catherine Bearder, told PinkNews that “the reality is that in some European countries LBGTI people still face daily persecution and discrimination.”
Another supporter of the Out and Proud group is the Member of Parliament for Portsmouth North and Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Penny Mordaunt, reports Gay Star News. Attending the launch event in person, she told the audience:
“I understand that you understand why that freedom is so important. I understand, as well, that you know that freedom needs defending.
“The freedom for every individual, every human being to thrive, to reach their full potential. And to do that we need democracy. We need accountability. And we need our sovereignty back.”