ERG pays tribute to ‘decisive voices’ and welcomes new committee

In a joint communique between Equality Rights Group (ERG) Chair, Felix Alvarez, and Charles Trico, Secretary, the group welcomed ‘new LGBT voices’.

‘We say it with all the warmth a new and enthusiastic initiative in Gibraltar deserves,’ the statement continued, referencing a separate project known as the ‘LGBTQ+ Committee’.

‘We extend a hand of welcome.’

‘Now that Pride month is over, it’s time to look back and reflect on where we’ve been, and where we’re heading.

‘This year, ERG marks its twenty-first year as a fully Gibraltarian Human and Civil Rights NGO, with a notable track record of success in taking Gibraltar from silence and discrimination for the LGBT+ community, whilst engaging with decision-makers, to the place where we are today. One in which now-disappeared political Party the Independent Liberal Forum (ILF) was the first local Party, led by Lyana Armstrong, to support gay rights, Fabian Picardo was the first Chief Minister of Gibraltar to support the rights of the LGBT+ community, and His Worship Anthony Lima, Mayor of Gibraltar 2012-14, was the first mayoral voice to publicly welcome the LGBT+ community. These decisive voices and this kind of symbolic leadership, along with that of then Governor H.E. Sir Adrian Johns and the support of Unite the Union, under Victor Ochello, add up historically and should not be forgotten because they all stood up and went public when it was still difficult; and because in 2021, neither young nor old need fear the consequences of not being heterosexual in our country.’

Mr. Anthony Lima, Gibraltar Mayor 2012-14.

‘Along with all the changes in multiple policies and laws that have become possible from 2011 following the inception of the present Administration, comes a growth in demand for social opportunities from the community. And we’re happy to observe the mission of our new friends to fill that gap and, at the same time, play an educational role. We wish them every success on their worthy commitment,’ Chair of the group, Felix Alvarez, noted.

‘With the knowledge and long experience that comes from over two decades of progress, however, ERG also strikes a note or two of caution. Because guiding and maintaining change while always looking forward is as important as provoking it,’ Mr Alvarez continues.

ERG Secretary  Charles Trico, added that ‘Gibraltar is a small community and, quite clearly, still transitioning into the new scheme of things. Lobbying as we have, we are proud that those moves have been achieved in a relatively peaceful and stable manner. Direct comparisons with other countries are not always useful, though we must always be alert and open to learning.

Fabian Picardo, QC, first Chief Minister to advance LGBT+ rights in Gibraltar.

The group says that ‘It is, however, vitally important to remain sensitive to our own context here in Gibraltar. Moving a society needs an on-going and intelligent combination of pushing margins with doing it in a way that is workable for the community, without giving in to retrograde resistance. It’s not easy.

‘For this reason, ERG has worked cautiously so as to avoid cornering or isolating the LGBT+ community. Creating a sense of exclusivity or disproportionate focus on any one sector of the community can set up an interplay of forces that can risk the fine balance obtained, with a great deal of deliberation, over the past two decades. Maintaining gains made and a momentum for future progress will depend on our navigation skills at every stage.

‘Furthermore, No. 6 and indeed City Hall will be wise to be measured in the face of impulse. Entering, as we are told, a period of economic readjustment on every front as a result of Brexit and Covid-19, an imbalance in monies spent on projects at a time when relative poverty in some sectors may increase as a result of job losses, social security demands, Community Care difficulties, and the likely problematic effects of these circumstances to sectors such as the disabled and pensioners, prudence must be brought to utmost relief in order to avert resentment or negative reactions.

‘Business sector sponsorship should, likewise, think twice in circumstances such as these. In the specific case of promoting annual Pride, the first official celebration of which ERG undertook in 2013, funding is important; and government participated significantly at that time. And whereas 2013 presented a less problematic financial landscape, for the next few years our economy is likely to be much more precarious.

‘Again, we cannot emphasise enough, for the sake of the harmony we have managed to achieve despite rapid social changes on this front, that we should all exercise sensitivity and responsibility towards the Gibraltar community at large. If ERG’s counsel is sought at all regarding annual celebrations, we will clearly opt for community-wide participation where spending is minimal and LGBT+ persons are able to celebrate plural diversities across our wide society, along with citizens from across the whole spectrum. And where the focus is on Gibraltar itself. Because that’s where equality begins for us. Incorporation and connectedness within the fabric of our own society without reneging on our differences reinforce us all.

‘Overall, then, the emergence of another strand of the LGBT+ community is positive. For everyone’s sake, however, patience and caution need to continue being the tonic as we carefully bring Gibraltar forward in acceptance and diversities. Because consolidation doesn’t happen overnight. Government, City Hall, business sponsors and politicians in general should take careful steps forward; because otherwise we risk endangering peace by fostering growth in homophobia. This indeed, is what has unfortunately occurred everywhere else; but we can learn from others’ mistakes. It doesn’t need to happen here, too,’ the statement ends.