Pride Not Profit

THAT’S THE message thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will be giving on 1 July when the Pride march hits London streets with its traditional combination of defiance, diversity and display.

The gay rights movement has made significant advances recently. A gay couple have been recognised by the courts for housing purposes, gay people are finally serving openly in the armed forces, Section 28 has been repealed in Scotland and an equal age of consent is inching closer. But nothing has come easily.

The fascist David Copeland killed and maimed dozens of black, Asian and gay people and their friends. Then Brian Souter frittered away millions trying to save Section 28 in a vicious smear campaign. With supporters of discrimination redoubling their efforts, it is vital Pride maintains its political edge.

The first Pride march was organised in New York in 1970 to celebrate the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots. The British Gay Liberation Front launched a March here in 1972.

Numbers rose steadily, but it was the Tory government’s introduction of Section 28 which pushed the numbers up to 60,000 in 1988. After that participation reached six figures. But the downside was that commercial interests moved to cash in.

Last year the old free festival was relaunched as the ticket-only ‘Mardi Gras’. Then last autumn the multi-millionaires behind Mardi Gras took control of the March too. Instead of remaining a fully inclusive event, the words ‘bisexual’ and ‘transgender’ were dropped from the title.

The march has become a ‘March-and-Parade’, overshadowed by the glitzy and dumbed-down Mardi Gras Festival, hyped as ‘the biggest party in London’.

The Socialist Party Lesbian, Gay & Bisexual Group (SPLGB) believes the future of Pride is now at stake.

The SPLGB Group demands:

§ Launch a campaign to take the Pride march back into non-profit democratic community control as the first step towards the de-commercialisation of Pride;
§ A campaign by the gay rights and trade union movement to demand the immediate repeal of Section 28. Scrap all discriminatory ‘guidelines’;
§ Put pressure on the government to stand up to the anti-gay peers and pass an equal age of consent into law. Remove the homophobic ‘abuse of trust’ clauses;
§ For a comprehensive anti-discrimination act, with legally-enforceable rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people at work, in the provision of goods and services, housing and working of government and public authorities.