A gay Labour politician has pledged his support for Ruth Kelly amid criticism of her appointment as Minister for Women and Equality due to her poor voting record on gay rights and affiliation with Opus Dei, a strict Catholic group.

Michael Cashman, the Labour MEP for the West Midlands, defended the government’s achievements for gays and lesbians following press attacks today on the appointment of Ruth Kelly as Secretary of State.

“Anyone who argues that this appointment means the government does not take gay rights seriously is sprinkling political poison with a blatant disregard for the facts,” said Mr Cashman speaking from the European Parliament in Brussels.

“The Tories delivery for the lesbian and gay community was rampant homophobia, Section 28 and a record of opposing virtually all equal opportunities measures brought in by the Labour government. Labour has virtually delivered on equality: from gays in the military, an equal age of consent, housing succession rights, civil partnership, hate crime legislation, same sex immigration, review of the sexual offences laws and abolition of discriminatory measures, non-discrimination in the work place, adoption and fostering rights and now proceeding to ban discrimination in the supply of goods and service.”

“These are just some of the measures which prove that this government doesn’t talk about equality, it delivers it, and I’m convinced Ruth Kelly will deliver the government’s agenda”.

The former EastEnders star turned politician was elected to the European Parliament in 1999 where he is the Labour spokesperson on human rights.