Senior representatives from Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats joined with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community last night to launch The Pink News, a new gay magazine in conjunction with 3Sixty.
Speakers at the event hosted by the Law Society included Minister for Women and Equality Meg Munn, Liberal Democrat Party President Simon Hughes, Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch Meg Hillier, Conservative Party Chairman Francis Maude.
Ms Munn said: “I’m glad to see a further demonstration of the vibrancy of the UK’s gay and lesbian community. Having a press that is rooted in the community, carrying differing ideas and views is important. Certainly energetic public debate has been essential in driving the equality agenda forward and the pink press makes a key contribution in this process. I am sure that the ‘new’ Pink News will continue to make its presence felt in this and other areas of life in today’s Britain.
“The Government will continue its work to ensure that gay men, lesbians and bisexual people are in the mainstream of life – part of this is in providing comprehensive rights. The most recent being the introduction of Civil Partnerships – over 6,500 since December! That’s over 13,000 people who are at last able to legally show their love and commitment for their partner.
“Previously we introduced measures showing our commitment to achieving a more equal society, including the equalisation of the age of consent, repeal of Section 28, and the introduction in 2003 of regulations that made sexual orientation discrimination unlawful in the workplace.
“As Minister for Women and Equality, I’m currently taking forward new regulations to combat sexual orientation discrimination, including the development of the new Goods Services Regulations.
“This work is has been strengthened following the Cabinet reshuffle in May which brought many of the policy aspects to do with equality together in the new Department of Communities Local Government , or DeCLOG! This change should make it easier in pursuing what we all want to see, a tolerant, inclusive society that represents the human rights and equality of all citizens.
“So, congratulations to the ‘new’ Pink News – I wish it every success.”
Simon Hughes congratulates PinkNews.co.uk and The Pink News editor Benjamin Cohen
Mr Hughes congratulated the work that PinkNews.co.uk and The PinkNews editor, Benjamin Cohen, has done, “I hope that we all agree in relation to Ben that the boy done well.
“I was very clear when I first met Ben that he was not an entrepreneur waiting to come out but some one who had come out as an entrepreneur. It was clearly going to be a successful venture.
“I smile with amusement with the site of all of you in the Law Society’s hallowed halls. It wasn’t where I thought I’d be when I came here 20 plus years ago that there would be the first signs of liberation, but its a sign of progress.
“I must say thank you to that young man in front of me because you have taught me how to applaud whilst holding a bottle of champagne. I always wondered how to. This guy does it by thumping his chest, and he does it very well so thank you very much indeed. A lesson for us all.
“Its very important to celebrate the launch of this publication by gay and straight people for gay and straight people and with issues for our communities. If I may I will take a personal view on the journey that we have collectively made over the 25 years or so. I was a human rights lawyer in Strasbourg before I came to Parliament and in those days it was inconceivable to envisage the changes that we now have. And we really need to celebrate those huge changes but they came with a huge struggle, a lot of pain, a lot of grief and a lot of will. And to have gone through the process of implementing the ECHR and moving through the introduction of civil partnerships then through most recently the equality act has been really great for lesbian and gay people. I have been to two civil partnership ceremonies and they have been absolutely fantastic events not just for the two couples involved but also the whole of their families, friends and the wider community and the natures of the change. But that’s not the end of the story and I need to be serious for a moment.
“I was in Soho for the vigil after David Morley died and was on the South Bank with fellow MP Kate Hoey with the police calling for witness after the brutal assault. And like the rest of you I read with horror what happened to Jody Dobrowski on Clapham Common. The good news we have in the sentence delivered just the other day have the ability to give sentences to have an additional element in the sentence to reflect the awfulness of hate crimes when people turn on their fellow human beings like that. But that level of violence hatred and antipathy is still fairly rooted down now. That’s why I’m a great campaigner for the sort of issues that Ben and others would want to report that cross party political boundaries. Campaigns like for example to start education to prevent homophobic bullying at the very earliest stage of school. There are petitions that we and others are seeking to gain support for so that you can live without fear at the very late stages of primary school and the early stages of secondary school. It can change your life to have that sort of freedom. That’s work that needs to be done.
“On the 17th May this year, I joined Peter Tatchell who was here, the fact that he left when I arrived is absolutely irrelevant I must say. We did stand against each other all those many years ago but we’ve got on very well since and I value all his support and advise. And of course he’s still a constituent of mine. But on that day with him and others we were outside the Home Office because we were campaigning for better asylum policy for better immigration policies and a civilised set of procedures that recognise the struggle that people have.
“Every week I am helping people who are seeking to help a partner, a friend, out of countries that they are unsafe in. Every month I am seeking to prevent someone from being sent back to somewhere like rural Turkey where they will not able to live their lives as a teacher let alone an individual. There’s a huge amount of work to do. If we are able to educate people of faith and culture to say that’s there’s nothing incompatible with your faith and culture and respecting the lives of other people to live their lives as they wish to do in a pluralist, respectful society. That’s work we have a big responsibility to do.
“If I may I want to leave you with a challenge, we have got six years until the Olympics come here, a fantastic opportunity and event. In the next six years, the press, the sensible, respectable press will hope will also turn around to present the image that we wish to present. I hope they can challenge the careless and flippant comments that in Radio programmes can cause harms and disrespect. I hope that they can challenge the sales driven, sensationalist press that seem to think that some parts of people’s individual lives are worth exploiting in order to keep sales of newspapers whilst other things are much more important to report.
“There’s a real job to be done to turn a country now with civilised laws with civilised behaviour from children in schools to the largest press institutions in the world and I want to complement Ben and his family, friends and collaborators on a serious attempt to make a change in what is the most diverse cities in one of the most cosmopolitan places in the world. If we can’t be respectful, pluralist and inclusive then nobody will be able to be and we have to make sure that the press in this country is a pluralist, inclusive and ethical as the rest of us would wish everybody else to be. Ben thank very much, my friend, well done.”
Ms Hillier said: “I’m not sure if any of you are aware of the work of the American academic Richard Florida he highlights some of the aspects that make a city economically successful. Two of those is that a city is creative and that a city is tolerant.
“As Simon has said, in this city of London we are diverse and generally except for a few very unfortunate and sad examples, a genuinely tolerant society. In Hackney we have that tolerance and respect and we are at the heart of a creative and energetic hub within London. It’s the creativities in London that generate an awful lot of income and jobs.
“So it’s great to have a successful pink publication in Hackney and I’m delighted to be the local member of Parliament for The PinkNews.
“If I can just add, I have a very good friend who nearly twenty years ago turned up to the end of the road of what was later on in my ward when I was a councillor. And at the end of the road he turned away because he was too frightened to go on. More recently, someone very close to me aged 17 felt able to come out without that fear. As Meg, Simon and Ben have highlighted, we have moved on a long away. But there is still more to do.
“I echo Simon’s views. As a constituency MP, I see people who are afraid to go back to their home countries because they aren’t as tolerant as London and parts of Britain are so there is work to be done.
“I look forward to be kept abreast of this news through The Pink News and 3SIXTY. I look forward to visiting you in your headquarters. One of the great things about my constituency is that I can walk around it very quickly!”
Conservative Party Chairman Francis Maude addresses the audience
Mr Maude said: “One of the worst things about being the last speaker is that you’re the only person holding the guests from the party. I see its already begun at the back! Those at the front needn’t worry, I will be very brief. I’m very proud and privileged to be here to support Ben and the launch of The Pink News. He’s done a fantastic job with PinkNews.co.uk already and I think the magazine is going to be a fantastic success.
“We’re here also to celebrate some change. Political and social change don’t always march in lock step together. Sometimes social change walks faster than political change and sometimes the parties and if I may say, the Conservatives in particular have to move faster to catch up with the social change.
“This country has been changing over a long period. One of the ways in which I am most proud of this country those attitudes, not of tolerance, which I always think of as a negative virtue but that positive virtue of respect, respect for each and every one of us whatever our sexuality whatever our lives are. That is something where we have seen change. The political change has sometimes had to catch up with this.
“A few years ago it would have seemed strange to see a Conservative at a gathering like this and yet there are a number of Conservatives in this room sharing in this important occasion.
“There have been legislative changes as well and I am pleased to have played some small part in that. The other day I had an experience that brought it home to me. I was having dinner with my bank manager and his partner. And they were telling me how they were in the last stages of the adoption process for their first child. I felt some sense of pleasure that I had been one of those members of Parliament that had voted for the ability for same sex couples to jointly adopt children.
“The fact is that all of these changes, the Civil Partnership Act, the ability to adopt is all about removing difference and creating a wider mainstream in which we all live, we all co-exist in respect for each other, in understanding each other and that makes for a better Britain. These issues of gay rights and the commitment to gay rights are I’m now glad to say outside of the political arena. These are no longer party political issues and I hope they never will be. These are important changes, this is an important day, a good evening and I’m proud to be a part of it.
“Ben, I’ve now learnt to drink pink champagne out of a straw without it getting up my nose, its a great pleasure to make a toast to the success of The Pink News.“
The July issue of 3SIXTY and The Pink News is out now.
It can be downloaded by clicking here.
Editor Benjamin Cohen and News Editor Marc Shoffman