The Conservative Party will elect its new leader by 5 September 2022


The Conservative leadership election is fully underway, with Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss through to the final round. On Monday evening, they battled it out in a televised debate, covering everything from interest rates to tax to China. Sunak was accused of mansplaining and the two argued it out with such vigour that it was almost difficult to comprehend that they’re part of the same party. Now, the vote goes to Conservative Party members, with the result expended to land by 5 September. But: where do both candidates stand on LGBTQI rights?

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak. Credit: UK Parliament

Conservative MP for Richmond, Yorkshire, Rishi Sunak was elected to the House of Commons in May 2015. He held the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer until the en-masse resignation of July 2022.

Sunak was absent for the vote on legalising equal marriage in Northern Ireland in 2019 but was not an MP when the UK Parliament voted on earlier significant milestones in LGBTQI equality. His voting records demonstrate that he has generally voted against laws promoting equality and human rights, notably voting in favour of repealing the Human Rights Act 1998 in May 2016.

Prior to launching his campaign, he pledged that if appointed to the post, he would reverse “recent trends to erase women via the use of clumsy, gender-neutral language.” In April 2022, Sunak expressed that trans people deserved “respect” but remarked that biology is “important” and “fundamental” when discussing both toilets and sports. Notably, he has not taken as public a stance on trans issues as Liz Truss.

Liz Truss

Liz Truss. Credit: UK Parliament

Liz Truss currently serves as Foreign Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, but notably has failed to build on Penny Mordaunt’s vision and reform the Gender Recognition Act. In September 2020, Truss revealed that she would not introduce self-identification for trans people. The GRA is vastly outdated and largely relies on medical terminology, and this policy change would allow trans people to change their legal gender without a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and without answering invasive questions about their identity, their body and their lives.

Notably, as Women and Equalities Minister she failed to introduce a universal ban on conversion therapy. The current legislation does not include trans and intersex people, and though challenged on it, she has remarked that the UK Government will only be legislating against sexuality-based “therapies” at this time. Despite hosting a public consultation on the GRA, reforms were abandoned. The LGBT Advisory Panel was further disbanded, marking another failure.

Truss has voted both for and against laws to promote equality and human rights, with three votes for, five votes against and six absences between 2011 and 2019. She has always voted in favour of LGBTQI rights, with seven votes for and zero against equal marriage between 2014 and 2019.

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