Former LGBT Advisory Panel member Jayne Ozanne has said she is “saddened” it is being disbanded, and criticised the government’s decision for sending a “worrying signal” to the queer community.
The government’s LGBT Advisory Panel was first instigated by Theresa May’s government to advise on “issues and policies concerning lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people” – however, three members quit in March as the Tory administration dragged its heels on a conversion therapy ban.
The panel was due to conclude at the end of March, but remaining members were reportedly keen to continue their work, the BBC reported on Tuesday (13 April). Despite this, the government equalities office confirmed that it had been disbanded, with a replacement to be put in place “in due course”.
Jayne Ozanne, a gay evangelical Christian who quit the LGBT Advisory Panel in March because of a “hostile environment”, told Sky News that the decision to disband the group would have a knock-on effect on the LGBT+ community’s trust in the government.
“I’m deeply saddened to hear it’s been disbanded,” Ozanne said during a virtual appearance on Sky News.
“It was a group of experts in their fields who understood the LGBT+ community in all its forms, and we all wanted to work with the government to help it implement its LGBT Action Plan, which also seems to have been put on hold.”
She continued: “I think it sends sadly an absolutely worrying signal to the LGBT community that their needs aren’t being heard, that their concerns aren’t being acted on, and we need to look at ways of rebuilding trust and rebuilding bridges of communication when this sadly goes right against that at a very key time.”
In a letter seen by the BBC, equalities minister Liz Truss said she will make an announcement “concerning the International LGBT Conference” and will convene “a new body that will take international LGBT rights forward.”
The decision to disband the group has been met with resistance from the LGBT+ community. Trans charity Mermaids said the news was “concerning”, adding: “A government determined to support and empower LGBTQ+ people does not disband its LGBT Advisory Panel.”
Jayne Ozanne quit the LGBT Advisory Panel over Kemi Badenoch’s ‘vague’ speech
Ozanne resigned from the panel in March after a parliamentary debate on conversion therapy, which saw equalities minister Kemi Badenoch give a widely-criticised speech in which she gave no firm commitments on when legislation would be brought forward or what it might look like.
That speech was, for Jayne Ozanne, “the straw that broke the camel’s back”, she told ITV News.
“Frankly one of the reasons I’m resigning now is to appeal to the prime minister, who I believe is a friend of the LGBT+ community, to act, to understand that the proposals that are going forward on conversion therapy do not have the confidence of the LGBT+ community, do not have the confidence of many senior religious leaders who’ve also called for a ban,” Ozanne said.
The UK government first committed to bringing forward a ban on conversion therapy in 2018. Almost three years on, no legislation has been advanced.