Friday, 2 July 2010
FIGHTING FOR WORKERS RIGHTS AND AGAINST HOMOPHOBIA IN RUGBY IN 1984
The gay liberation movement in the UK are celebrating 40 years of struggle this week – so I thought it might be worth casting the mind back to 1984. When homophobia almost became a policy of the local council
One of the proudest moments of my life in politics occurred back in 1984, when in reaction to the local Tory run Rugby Borough Council decision to ban gay people from employment. I participated in a campaign that brought together workers in the trade unions at the council (manual and white collar), the local Labour Party and the Labour Party Young Socialists of which I was the Secretary, and local people together in a campaign in the town to fight these homophobic attack on workers rights.
Our Tory Mayor was even applauded in a Sun editorial, for his sickening diatribe about the threat of gay staff assaulting members of the public in the workplace.
A demonstration was called (I was a steward as well as other local people – by the way most of us were straight) and it was heartening to see older labour councillors walking together with local people and local Trade Unionists (with banners) and also gay, lesbian and straight people throughout the country, joining the protest, repulsed by the bigoted comments and actions of the local Tories.
The demonstration also gave some confidence to local gay and lesbian people to identify themselves to friends and family and people from outside the town to do the same – not least a young Labour MP, Chris Smith who was the first MP to come out, which he did on the protest platform in the packed meeting room to cheering crowds.
At least 2000 people attended this demonstration (with tacit support across the community in Rugby) – and the protest led to the Tories backing down quickly afterwards!
It’s a shame, 26 years on that people still have to fight for equal right, but even today perhaps the struggle in Rugby still provides lessons.
UNITY IS STRENGTH!
Roy Sandison - Rugby Green Party