Exclusive

Government has an important role to play in LGB and T equality and the coalition has made clear our determination to tear down barriers to equal opportunities and build a fairer society.

Earlier this week, as part of that commitment, I published an ambitious programme of work for the coalition government on LGB and T issues, turning promises into action.

This coincided with one of the very first receptions to be held at Number 10 since David Cameron has been prime minister, to celebrate the achievements of LGB and T equality campaigners. These two events reflect the different strands of work we need to do to further LGB and T equality.

First, there is a clear role for government to tackle the discrimination that far too many LGB and T people experience today.

I believe our action plan represents a comprehensive programme of work to do just that. Whether it is new measures to tackle homophobic bullying in our schools, action to stop those convicted for consensual gay sex still being treated as criminals, or working to promote better recording of hate crimes against LGB and T people at home, or a commitment to promote gay rights and UK civil partnerships abroad.

But LGB and T equality is not a job for government alone. There is a role for everyone in our society to bring about the cultural change we need to achieve.

To not only say that no one should suffer discrimination or fear persecution for who they are; but to stand up and say that people have the right to be proud of who they are and who they love. That is what is so fantastic about events such as Pride London, which raises the serious issues that remain around LGB and T equality, but also takes the opportunity to celebrate the LGB and T community at the same time.

Cultural change is not straightforward, but it is essential to advance the cause of LGB and T rights. Of course there is a role for politicians here too and I’m proud that this election saw an increase in the number of openly gay MPs in parliament, although we have further to go. It is not just politicians and government who need to take action, but also business leaders, sportsmen, newspaper editors, volunteers, the list goes on.

We can be proud that the UK is a world leader in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, but we must never be complacent about the challenges we still face. I hope this week we have shown our commitment to LGB and T equality, marking the beginning of a constructive relationship between the coalition and the LGB and T community. My goal, as minister for women and equality, is for us to work together to tackle discrimination and make our country one that is more tolerant, more equal and fairer for all.