Organisers of Hastings Pride withdraw invitation to mayor’s office to attend event

Organisers of Hastings Pride have withdrawn their invitation to the mayor’s office to attend this year’s event following social media posts shared by the deputy mayor’s Facebook page.

Thursday, 26th August 2021, 11:06 am
Natasha Scott, arts and entertainment director, Hastings Pride SUS-200921-072656001

In a joint statement, Hastings Pride and the Hastings and Rother Rainbow Alliance (HRRA) said no councillors on Hastings Borough Council have been officially invited to the event – which takes place on Sunday (August 29) – following councillor Ruby Cox’s election as the town’s deputy mayor.

Councillor Cox’s Facebook page shared two articles from the Telegraph, headlined ‘Trans charities are using children as political pawns’ and ‘The women’s vote counts – so why don’t women?’ In another, she shared a link to the Womans Place UK website on ‘guidance on the gender recognition act consultation’. These three posts have since been removed.

Hastings Pride and HRRA contacted Hastings Borough Council about organising a meeting to discuss the issue, which was agreed by councillor Judy Rogers. In this meeting, according to Hastings Pride and HRRA, councillor Cox agreed to issue a public apology.

In her statement, she said she ‘did not understand the complexities of the issues surrounding trans rights’ at the time of sharing the links. Hastings Pride and HRRA said the statement was ‘ambiguous’ and asked councillor Cox to acknowledge ‘that trans men are men and trans women are women and should be treated as such’.

As a result, the two groups withdrew their invitation to the mayor’s office for this Sunday’s Hastings Pride event and decided not to officially invite any councillors sitting on the council.

In response, Jane Hartnell, managing director of Hastings Borough Council, said: “Hastings Borough Council is saddened and very disappointed to have received the HRRA statement via the media. Officers and councillors have been working hard to support the Hastings Pride event and we were looking forward to taking part as community leaders as we have in all previous years.

“The council’s commitment to equality and diversity is embedded in our core values as set out in our Corporate Plan.

“We continue to be proud to support Hastings Pride, which has always received visible support from councillors of all political parties, and officers from across the council. We have had a number of meetings this summer with the Hastings Pride organisers to ensure the event is well managed and safe and a continuing success. We also give a high level of support behind the scenes including lending them equipment for the event.

“The council has a robust complaints process which deals with matters regarding councillor behaviour. Information about how to make a complaint has been passed to HRRA but no official complaint has been received.”

The Hastings and Rye Labour Party also issued a statement, in which the party said: “It is Labour Party policy to support trans rights, and we stand in solidarity with the trans community. The party backs self-identification and reform of the Equality Act and as a local party we will continue working to further that aim.”

Councillor Cox was also approached for comment.

In a joint statement, Hastings Pride and HRRA said: “Sadly, as we approach the annual event of Hastings Pride, when local people can show support and solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community, it has been shown exactly why we need such an event – not just to celebrate and have a good time, but to meaningfully stand together against oppression. In 2021 we still do not have real support for the whole LGBTQ+ community from those who hold public office.

“We will celebrate Hastings Pride on Sunday. However, the local campaign to ensure basic human rights for a vulnerable part of our LGBTQIA+ community will now ramp up. We will not rest until those that are elected to serve the people show support to some of the most vulnerable.

“We thank those few councillors such as Judy Rogers and Claire Carr who have shown true and unequivocal support and solidarity throughout. This is what we hope to see from more councillors moving forward as we challenge the actions of the council leaders and try to find a resolution.

“We ask everyone to take a stand in defence of members of the LGBTQ+ community – as one community, enriched by our differences, strengthened by our solidarity.”