Michael Cashman, the Labour MEP for the West Midlands has been named a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) by the Queen in recognition for his tireless fight for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) equality.

Mr Cashaman co-founded the gay lobbying organisation Stonewall while staring in EastEnders, where he played the role of Colin Russell, the first openly gay man in a British soap opera. He was elected an MEP in 1999.

He said: “This announcement is as big a surprise at it is an honour.”

“I have had an amazing life where I have been able to stand up for the values and principles which I believe in and to effect real change for my life and the lives of others. Not a day goes by when I don’t recognise how lucky and fortunate I have been in my life.”, he continued.

“Whilst we have achieved so much in terms of legal equality for LGBT people in the UK we still have so much more to do. Discrimination still exists and it destroys and blights so many lives. In other parts of the world people are imprisoned, criminalised or face capital punishment simply because they are different. On behalf of all those people I proudly accept this honour and commit to continue the fight for equality’, he concluded.

Mr Cashman confirmed that he will quit as a member of the European Parliament at the next European Election in 2014.