In an exclusive comment for PinkNews.co.uk, Foreign Secretary David Miliband discusses the importance of Pride
The UK now sets a global standard in equal legal rights. Pride London celebrates our diversity and equality. With an equal age of consent, thousands having their loving relationships recognised by law and equal adoption rights for homosexual couples, the values of equal opportunity and fairness shape now shape our law. There is no better place than the most diverse city in the world to take pride in that.
It is also important, I think, to recognise that these social advances are fragile and need to be protected and built upon. Whilst debating Britain’s role in the European Union with the Conservatives recently I have been shocked at their proposals to withdraw Conservative MEPs from the European People’s Party, the largest political grouping in the EU. Tories will seek to establish a new group of parties in the European Parliament, with their key potential partner being the Polish Law and Justice party, who have described lesbian women and gay men as ‘abnormal, asocial and abject’ and ban gay rights marches. They have also accused homosexuality of being a cultural and biological threat to ‘natural law, marriage and family’. Such alliances would resurrect the prejudices that we have worked so hard to eradicate.
Labour’s record on equality is, I believe, the terrain on which our differences with the Conservatives are most stark. Ending the ban on LGBT people serving in our armed forces; scrapping Section 28; including homophobia in the definition of hate crimes; placing a duty on all public bodies to advance equality through the Equality Bill; allowing transgender people to have their true gender recognised in law; and becoming a signatory of the Treaty of Amsterdam to end discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation are all achievements which underline our purpose as a progressive government.
We will continue to take the lead, and as Foreign Secretary I will campaign for equal rights abroad. InterPride’s fantastic, admirable work demonstrates the passion that exists for global justice, and last December the UK was pleased to support the first UN statement calling for the decriminalisation of same sex relations across the globe. We all know, however, that there remain too many incidences worldwide of persecution or violence based on sexual orientation.
Nothing justifies the abuse of basic human rights. We are committed to promoting fundamental freedoms in all our foreign policies, including the rights of the global LGBT community, since democratic governance and sustainable development cannot take place where groups of people are excluded from enjoying their civil liberties. We have huge challenges, in particular in parts of Africa and South America, and need to prioritise education and health treatment programmes. We will continue to campaign to end the criminalisation of homosexuality around the world and to promote civil partnerships where they are not in place across the EU.
Saturday’s celebrations are not just for the gay community, but for all those proud of living in a fair, equal and modern society. Our commitment to these values, however, transcends our borders and I look forward to the day when the pride we feel and the celebrations we enjoy are shared globally. I hope we can work together to make that a reality.
Rt Hon David Miliband MP, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs