Hello and welcome to the weekly equality and diversity news in the new year and new term. As before, we’ll bring news of relevance to equality and diversity to you every week. This week we bring to you the decision in the Stephen Lawrence case, Diane Abbott’s ‘racist’ remarks on Twitter, the Falconer report on assisted dying and the transgender campaign in New York.

Stephen Lawrence

© Flickr user 4WardEver UK

The news that deserves mention before anything else is that of the sentencing of two men convicted of Stephen Lawrence’s murder. The sentencing of Gary Dobson and David Norris came 18 years after the racist attack on black teenager Stephen Lawrence near a South London bus stop. The case is considered to be a ‘turning point’ in Britain’s racism debate.

Closely following on the heels of the sentencing was the controversy created by MP Diane Abbott’s allegedly racist remark on Twitter. The remark was made by Diane Abbott in her conversation with the journalist Bim Adewumni on Twitter on the use of generic terms like ‘the black community’ and ‘black community leaders’. Abbott wrote “White people love playing “divide & rule” We should not play their game #tacticasoldascolonialism”. Is this controversy over ‘reverse racism’ a non-story? You decide.

Meanwhile, the Falconer report on assisted dying has been published by the Commission on Assisted Dying. The report makes a strong case for allowing assisted suicide for terminally ill people. It also suggests a strict set of rules to ensure that it is not abused. The report has had a mixed response. Dr Peter Saunders, campaign director of Care Not Killing, an alliance of faith and disability groups and doctors, said: “This investigation was unnecessary, biased and lacking in transparency, and its report is seriously flawed.”

Last, transgender people in New York are campaigning for a change in the city’s birth certificate change policy. Currently, a person’s birth certificate can be changed only if the person has undergone sex-change surgery; in the UK, this is not a requirement. Last year, three transgender persons sued the city of New York to force it to relax its birth certificate change requirements.The suit is part of a quiet movement across the US and beyond to bring the rules governing identity documents into line with what transgender advocates describe as advances in the understanding of sex classification.

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