Senior politicians from across the political divide have spoken to PinkNews.co.uk about their nominations for a Stonewall Award.
Two Cabinet ministers, a member of the Scottish Parliament, a Tory frontbench spokesperson, a junior Treasury minister and the only openly gay peer in the House of Lords are in contention for the coveted Politician of the Year award.
“We’re delighted that politicians from all three main parties have been nominated,” Stonewall’s director of Parliamentary affairs, Alan Wardle, told PinkNews.co.uk
“It was MPs and peers from across the political divide who were vital in securing our recent goods and services protection.”
Alan Johnson, the Secretary of State for Health, was instrumental in getting the Sexual Orientation Regulations onto the statute books.
In his former role as Trade and Industry Secretary he supported the regulations, which protect gay, lesbian and bisexual people from discrimination when accessing goods and services.
Earlier this year, as Education Secretary, Mr Johnson led Cabinet opposition to a proposed opt-out for Roman Catholic adoption agencies from the SORs.
Eventually the then-Prime Minister Tony Blair decided not to grant any exemptions. A Downing St spokesman later praised Mr Johnson for his defence of gay rights.
“I am honoured to have been nominated for Stonewall’s Politician of tbe Year award,” Mr Johnson told PinkNews.co.uk, “but there are also many other worthy nominees for this accolade.
“Stonewall does a tremendous job in campaigning for greater equality for gay and lesbian people, but I also want to pay tribute to the many unsung heroes in and out of politics who work day in, day out for such an important cause.”
His Cabinet colleague, Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain, has also been nominated for the Politician of the Year award.
As Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mr Hain ensured the SORs became law in the province in spite of bitter objections to protection for LGB people from Unionist politicians.
He also argued against a Catholic opt-out in Cabinet.
“I am proud of the fact that that in Northern Ireland, with its horrible history of bigotry and prejudice and discrimination, including on gay rights, that I was the person who has changed that forever,” he told PinkNews.co.uk in an interview last May.
Eleanor Laing is the only Conservative to be nominated. As her party’s frontbench spokesperson on equality, she spoke forcefully for gay rights within the Tory party, specifically the SORs, and “held the line” in the face of opposition from some of her own MPs.
“I am very honoured to have been nominated,” she told PinkNews.co.uk.
“I am so pleased that we have made this enormous breakthrough in bringing in laws which really do respect the individual and the true concept of equality.”
Ms Laing now speaks for the Conservatives on Department of Justice matters.
Peter Hain, Eleanor Laing and Alan Johnson.
Iain Smith, Angela Eagle and Lord Waheed Alli.
Angela Eagle, the Labour MP for Wallasey, has been another consistent voice for gay rights in Parliament.
A member of her party’s ruling National Executive Committee, Ms Eagle was promoted to a ministerial position at the Treasury by Gordon Brown when he became Prime Minister in June.
The only openly lesbian in the House of Commons, Ms Eagle, an MP since 1992, she has fought for every single piece of gay rights legislation put before Parliament.
She was instrumental in ensuring that civil partnership legislation was comprehensive in matters such as pensions, and she also fought off attempts to reduce the scope of the SORs.
“I have been privileged enough to have been able to have a positive effect and to get proper civil rights for lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual people, and I am carrying on doing it” she told PinkNews.co.uk
“It is nice to be recognised for your work.”
Lord Waheed Alli is a prominent voice for equality and the rights of gay people in the House of Lords.
A former TV executive, when he was ennobled by Tony Blair in 1998, he was, at 38, the youngest peer in the Lords, one of the few Muslim or Asian voices in that House and the only peer who was openly gay.
Many of the rights that gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people enjoy in the UK were fought tooth and nail in the upper House, and Lord Alli’s soft-spoken appeals for understanding and equality had an immense effect on his fellow peers.
“It is always nice to be nominated for things but Stonewall is a special organisation,” Lord Alli told PinkNews.co.uk
“Without it the lives of gay men and lesbians would still be in the dark ages.
“I know everyone who has been nominated has helped change our society for the better.
“Win, lose or draw, it is a privilege to work with Stonewall.”
Since the formation of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, Liberal Democrat MSP Iain Smith has spoken up for the rights of the LGBT community.
In battles over Section 28 and gay adoption he has been an advocate for equality and is highly-respected amongst his fellow parliamentarians.
“I’m proud and delighted to be nominated for the Stonewall Politician of the Year Award,” he told PinkNews.co.uk
“Taking the bill to modernise the adoption process – including making provision for same-sex couples to jointly adopt children – through the Scottish Parliament was a difficult and daunting task.
“A shrinking but vocal minority of people are still prejudiced against all matters relating to homosexuality and this prejudice was encouraged by the reactionary articles that appeared in some sections of the press.”
The second annual Stonewall Awards will be held on in the Victoria Albert Museum on Thursday 1st November.
Preceded and followed by champagne receptions, tickets for the evening are available at £100 from firstname.lastname@example.org and from the Stonewall website – www.stonewall.org.uk