LGBT and Equality post-Brexit: ensuring the rainbow stays bright and flying in the HE sector | AUA Blog

Liam Arnull Project Officer  Finance Division | University of Oxford

LGBT+ equality has had a turbulent history in the HE sector, as values have moved from those around educating the public schoolboy to that of mass and open access to higher education. Here, deliberations around homophobia in HE institutions became a serious conversation in the late 20th century and has accumulated in various safeguards against prejudice being established. The Equality Act 2010 is the current focus point for departments to the government in terms of what should be provided in a fair and open landscape for all workplaces, let alone the HE sector. Although known about, this piece of legislation was properly introduced to me by a fellow colleague at a workshop for Ambitious Futures and got the wheels whirring in my brain about the impact Brexit might have on it.

The EU has vastly impacted on the UK’s governing laws, with the Equality Act being no exception. Implementing the EU Equal Treatment Directives, it absorbed previous UK equality laws into a single bill for easy reference to show that the EU’s directives had been carried out.

With the UK’s exiting from the EU and withdrawal from further oversight from EU institutions, uncertainty around the upkeep of these directives has been created as the UK places them into domestic law. This process is being done for an umptenth number of directives originating from the EU and once completed, changing them will no longer provoke the fiery wrath of EU fines and watchdogs.

It might not be changed. It might be thrown into the long grass. The problem for LGBT+ equality post-Brexit is around the uncertainty for all people in this spectrum in how their immediate surroundings will safeguard them. Although progress has been made, homophobia is still present in the HE sector and the confusion around what will be newly established post-Brexit for not only LGBT+ people but for all of those that fall under the protection of the Equality Act means institutions must take their own initiatives to securing a safe workplace for staff and student alike.

From exploring what LGBT+ means with staff to promoting LGBT+ champions, there are a myriad of smalls steps that HE institutions can take to make a big difference. Like any acronym in the HE sector (and blimey, are there a lot!), LGBT+ is constantly changing to reflect the diverse and spectral nature of those who identify with the queer world. Such change and redeveloping of ideas requires dedicated commitment to ensure that no one who identifies as LGBT+ is left out unprotected in this volatile world of ours.

This is, really, a call to action for anyone in the HE sector to take steps in mitigating the erosion of LGBT+ safeguards and to help champion their continual development through the rough seas of Brexit.

Want to get involved with LGBT+ work and the AUA? A new network for LGBT+ people is being established to promote this championing.

Please contact Stephen McAuliffe for more information: S.McAuliffe@bham.ac.uk

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