At an official gay Pride function in London last night, the city’s mayor Ken Livingstone told an audience of 400 people that he will be taking part in the march this year- but cannot decide on whether or not to appear on a float.
The reception, sponsored by Morgan Stanley, brought together Pride organisers, City Hall staff and volunteers and others from across the LGBT community.
Mr Livingstone spoke of his long support for gay rights, and said that the Greater London Authority would have both a bus and a float in Saturday’s march.
“Pride is becoming one of the great cultural events in London. It brings people to the city,” he said.
“It is 40 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England.
“I remember following the debates in Parliament, a very young Dr David Owen said, ‘we have to recognise that while we are stopping the discrimination against homosexuals, they shouldn’t assume this means we don’t want them to go and get cured.’
“Everyone has come a long way since those days. We are making a lot of good progress in this city about sexual orientation equality in the public sector but we have to maintain strongest vigilance against homophobia.”
Mr Livingstone went on to congratulate Stonewall for securing funding to distribute their training DVD for teachers about homophobic bullying across the country.
The Mayor supported the production of the DVD and ensured it was distributed throughout London.
Mr Livingstone also spoke about the rise of homophobia across Europe.
“Politicians are seeing a cheap way to get votes. We have seen the attacks on Peter Tatchell and others in Moscow, and the Israeli parliament voted by a two to one majority to ban gay marches.
“We have to continue to make links and draw people together against the intolerance when we see.
“When I see those awful twins running Poland, I wonder if all those plumbers coming over here are only looking for work, or whether it is more than the plumbing they have got on their mind!”
Mr Livingstone said that London Pride would celebrate those across the world who are facing a more difficult and unpleasant set of circumstances.
Ben Summerskill, chief executive of gay equality organisation Stonewall, welcomed the Mayor’s support for Pride, and highlighted some of the changes to the London transport network under his stewardship:
“He introduced bendy buses, which mean that no gay clubber will ever again have to pay to get home!
“For more than three decades he has done a huge amount for lesbian and gay and bisexual people in this country.”
Mr Summerskill also referred to the 40th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
“Changing the law is an absolutely critical first step in changing the wider world.”
He recalled that when the Sexual Orientation Regulations were introduced earlier this year, giving gay people protection from discrimination when accessing goods and services, the reaction was global.
“We received thousands of messages of goodwill, they didn’t just come from the UK and America … they came from China and Chile and Zimbabwe and Russia and Romania.
“Those thousands of people tell us that when they see what is going on in the UK, they are able to dream that they will be able to see their countries change too.
“I do think that is the thing that makes the struggle in which we are all engaged almost unique, the struggle in which we are all engaged is being watched from around the world and it will outlast our lifetimes.
“The struggle in which we are all engaged means that one day lesbian and gay men here tonight, who are lucky enough to have children, one day they will be able to tell their children and grandchildren not only that once upon a time they changed the law in Britian in 2007, but also that once upon a time they helped changed the world.”
London is gearing up for Saturday’s Pride celebrations, which will see lesbians and gay men in their thousands take part in the parade through central London and the free festival in Soho Square, Leicester Square and Trafalgar Square.
City Hall is the venue for a photographic exhibition marking the 40th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in England.
The exhibition highlights some of the milestones in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) history and the diversity of London’s LGBT communities.
It was organised by the LGBT Staff Network at the Greater London Authority and runs from 22 June to 6 July.