Writing exclusively for PinkNews on International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, Cabinet Minister for Equalities Sajid Javid says the government is “by no means complacent” when it comes to LGBT rights.
On a Friday morning at the end of March I was walking down Whitehall and saw something that made me extremely proud. Government buildings the length of the road were flying the rainbow flag, a very public celebration of the first same-sex marriages that would take place a few hours later.
The historic Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act made headlines around the world. But it’s just one of the many steps this government has taken to tackle inequality.
We have changed the law so that men who were unfairly stigmatised by decades-old convictions for consensual gay sex can have those convictions treated as spent.
We have introduced much tougher sentences for transphobic hate crime. Such behaviour has no place in a civilised society and must be properly punished.
We have launched a new project that will tackle the scourge of homophobic bullying in schools. Too many children still suffer from this unacceptable abuse, and we’re committed to stamping it out.
And if your faith group allows it, the government is clear that same-sex couples can now marry or register their civil partnerships on religious premises.
All this work has not gone unnoticed. For the fourth year in a row, the International Lesbian and Gay Association Rainbow Index has ranked the UK number one in Europe for LGB&T rights.
But we are by no means complacent. IDAHOT is an opportunity for us to reflect on the progress made towards LGB&T equality, but it is also a reminder of the challenges that remain. LGB&T people continue to face discrimination and violence because of who they are. Everyone should be able to live free of fear and of violence, and it’s time we ended this prejudice.
Those rainbow flags over Whitehall were a powerful symbol of our commitment to the LGB&T community, but symbolism alone changes nothing. So let me reassure you now that this government will continue to take real action to support LGB&T people and to continue the fight for equality both at home and abroad.
Sajid Javid is Culture Secretary, Cabinet Minister for Equalities and Conservative MP for Bromsgrove.