Former BBC Radio 4 newsreader Alice Arnold has described yesterday’s equal marriage speech by David Cameron at the annual Downing Street LGBT reception as “heartfelt and moving”.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Ms Arnold, the civil partner of sports presenter Clare Balding, said: “It’s still a surprise. Only a year ago we couldn’t believe the bill would go forward and yet it did and in almost record time. I still don’t know why Mr Cameron decided to put himself on the line for this when there are lots of other matters he could have turned his attention to, but he is committed.”
On Wednesday afternoon Mr Cameron said: “something really important has changed in our country, and that is at the end of a long, tortuous parliamentary process, the Queen has signed the equal marriage bill, and that is something we can all be very proud of.”
In her Telegraph article, Alice Arnold said: “As we sipped our Pimms he [the Prime Minister] gave a heartfelt and moving speech. England and Wales are now the best countries in Europe to be gay, bisexual or transgender. The Prime Minister was genuinely proud of that. It is important, he said, for young people at school who may be unsure about their sexuality, to know, that whether they are gay or straight, they are free to marry the person they love. He told a story about a parent he had met with a straight son and a gay daughter, and their joy at being able to attend the weddings of both in the future.”
Echoing his speech, Ms Arnold remarked: “Of course there is still work to be done. I am a firm believer that attitudes change laws and laws change attitudes. There is no doubt that as the debates raged on in the Commons and the Lords, those who were against equal marriage were slowly and painfully drowning. They could appear as nothing less than mean spirited and old-fashioned.”
Citing the problem of homophobic bullying in schools – also mentioned by the Prime Minister – Ms Arnold said: “66% of LGBT young people get bullied at school and 58% of them do not report it. Work can be done and is being done to try to combat this. Suran Dickson formed the charity Diversity Role Models and does incredible work in schools talking to young people about diversity, enabling them to ask the questions they want to ask and to talk openly about the issues involved. Through discussion comes understanding, it is no good trying to sweep the topic under the carpet.”
“We also have the issue of the Commonwealth,” Ms Arnold added. “Homosexual activity remains a criminal offence in 41 of the 54 Commonwealth states. We shall be hosting the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year. It is an obvious opportunity to spread our message of Human Rights across the nations.So this is no time for complacency. Whilst we celebrate we are all still aware of what needs to be done.”