Sex scandals highlight need to have more LGBTQ, women in power - campaigners

by Belinda Goldsmith | @BeeGoldsmith | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 7 November 2017 19:01 GMT

The White House is illuminated in rainbow colors after today's historic Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage in Washington June 26, 2015. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

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"The greatest protection for LGBTQ is acceptance but you also need legal protection and this is rolling back"

By Belinda Goldsmith

LISBON, Nov 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Sexual harassment scandals sweeping from Hollywood to other industries globally highlight the need to have more women, gay and black people in power at a time when minority rights are being rolled back, LGBTQ campaigners said on Tuesday.

Abuse allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein have prompted thousands of women and men to share stories about improper behaviour by people abusing their power in the movie world, UK parliament and elsewhere.

Allegations against actor Kevin Spacey stemming from an alleged attempt to seduce a 14-year-old boy about 30 years ago, for which he has apologised, added a new focus to the pitfalls of power differentials - the targeting of young, gay men.

U.S. filmmaker Dustin Lance Black, an lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) activist who won an Oscar for the screenplay for the 2008 movie Milk, said sexual abuse had been ignored for too long in Hollywood.

"We've heard about the casting couch in Hollywood forever but I think this is likely the end of that," Black, 43, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation on the sidelines of the 2017 Web Summit global technology conference in Lisbon.

"We now need to create an environment in Hollywood where women and LGBTQ people feel safe and then we will see more diversity among the people who succeed in television and film," he said, adding he never personally faced abuse in Hollywood.

Filmmaker Dustin Lance Black poses for a photo at the 2017 Web Summit global technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal, November 7, 2017. THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Belinda Goldsmith

Black, who married the British Olympic diver Tom Daley this year, said this was not just a problem in Hollywood but in many industries.

But he said it was interesting this has come at a time when LGBTQ rights, as well as women's rights, were starting to suffer globally with the United States no longer pushing forward the equality agenda since Donald Trump's election.

"Without the leadership of the United States we are seeing LGBTQ rights in many countries going backwards," said Black.

"Previously countries that tended to discriminate against LGBTQ were worried of doing so and jeopardising their relationship with the United States. This is no longer the case and it is very dangerous for our community around the world."

Sarah Kate Ellis, head of the U.S.'s largest gay and lesbian advocacy group GLAAD, also flagged her concerns on the erosion of LGBTQ rights without U.S. enforcement, citing recent reports of anti-gay actions in Chechnya, Egypt and Tanzania.

"The greatest protection for LGBTQ is acceptance but you also need legal protection and this is rolling back," said Ellis, who took over as head of GLAAD, or the Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, in 2014.

She said it was important LGBTQ people, as well as women, took more leadership positions, to stop the abuse of minorities and vulnerable people by those in positions of power.

"It is important this is starting to come out and I hope we see a turnaround in Hollywood where more women, people of colour and LGBTQ get into more power because the problem is where the power lies," Ellis told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith @BeeGoldsmith, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)