Tories name new equalities minster as gay MP Mike Freer, with Kemi Badenoch also remaining in role

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Tory MP Mike Freer has been appointed minister for equalities within the UK government’s equalities office, it has been revealed.

The news was announced on Tuesday (21 September) as a late addition to Boris Johnson’s reshuffle. Freer, who is gay, will take up his new position as minister for equalities alongside his previously announced role in the Department for International Trade.

According to a government announcement, Mike Freer will support Liz Truss, minister for equalities and women, in his work. He will also work in conjunction with minister for equalities Kemi Badenoch.

The news was welcomed by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Global LGBT+ Rights, which is chaired by Crispin Blunt MP. Writing on Twitter, the APPG LGBT+ said it was “delighted” to welcome Freer to his new role.

“Mike has always been a champion of LGBT+ people and we look forward to working closely with him in government,” the group said.

Freer was chair of the Conservative Party’s internal LGBT+ advisory group during David Cameron’s premiership, and was previous chair of the All-Party Parlimentary Group on HIV.

He was a vocal advocate for the life-saving HIV prevention medication, PrEP, being made freely available on the NHS. In 2016, amid continued NHS England refusals to commission PrEP, he said that decisions based on the drug must be “based on clinical effectiveness — not prejudice over life choices”. It has since been rolled out.

Freer successfully campaigned for HPV vaccines to be given to young men, and has long rallied against conversion therapy – something the Conservative government has promised to ban, but has been stubbornly slow to act on.

As far back as 2013, Freer was calling for an “outright ban this voodoo medicine and so-called conversion therapy”. Eight years on, the government announced a public consultation on the debunked practice, with such a ban still yet to materialise.

The MP is the winner of two PinkNews awards. In 2013, he won Parliamentary Speech of the Year for his emotional speech in support of same-sex marriage, and in 2016 he won Politician of the Year for his work on LGBT+ rights both in the UK and overseas.

Mike Freer’s surprise appointment comes just days after equalities office controversy

The surprise announcement comes just days after equalities minister Kemi Badenoch was widely criticised after she was heard making disparaging comments about LGBT+ people in a leaked recording obtained by Vice.

In the recording – which was made in 2018, before Badenoch joined the equalities office – she could be heard saying: “It’s no longer about minority rights in terms of race any more or nationality, it’s now, you know like, it’s not even about sexuality now, it’s now like the whole transgender movement, where, OK well we’ve got gay marriage, and civil partnerships, so what are transsexuals looking for?”

She continued: “Even when, you know, so, people hear about, you know like the whole bathroom thing, it’s actually more of an American thing but they have a similar problem, that, right so now it’s not just about being free to marry who you want, you now want to have men using women’s bathrooms.”

The recording placed a spotlight on the equalities office, which has repeatedly found itself at the centre of controversies for its handling of LGBT+ issues.

Badenoch faced strident criticism in February when it emerged that she had secretly met with the anti-trans LGB Alliance.

She later declined to attend an inquiry into Gender Recognition Act reform, and she has faced pressure to resign from her position for allegedly “failing” the LGBT+ community.

Meanwhile, Liz Truss has faced her fair share of criticism over her approach to LGBT+ issues. Under her leadership, the Equalities Office has scrapped all plans to meaningfully reform the gender recognition process, despite polling which shows the British public supports reform.

In May, the government’s LGBT Advisory Panel collapsed after several members resigned, with some accusing the government of creating a “hostile environment” for LGBT+ people.

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