Angela Eagle writes for PinkNews about the vital role the EU is playing in the advancement of LGBT rights globally.
Later today I will be speaking at Islington Town Hall celebrating LGBT History Month and the progress the LGBT community have made towards being seen as equal under the law and in the eyes of our fellow citizens.
LGBT History Month provides an opportunity to look back at some of the hard-won victories, and let’s face it we’ve made fantastic progress in the UK since Labour were elected to Government in 1997: the decriminalisation of homosexuality, civil partnerships legislation, scrapping Section 28, equalising the age of consent, equal access to goods and services, gay adoption, the Equality Act, and the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act.
It is also an opportunity to celebrate some of the highlights in our more recent and shared history. Indeed I was proud to make a small contribution in that journey by being the first openly gay person to speak from the despatch box at Prime Minister’s Questions last year.
Even more important than looking back and praising those who persevered along the path towards justice and equality is looking forward to the campaigning challenges ahead.
Because while much progress has been made, children in our country still face being bullied in the playground; and LGBT people around the world still face persecution, and even murder, because of who they are and who they love.
“LGBT rights are human rights and human rights are LGBT rights”, said Hillary Clinton so eloquently recently – she’s right. I’m passionate that in every country in every part of the world LGBT people should be treated equally and with respect. So we still have lots of campaigning work to do.
Persecution is advancing around the world in countries where children are taught an exclusivist view of the world; in societies where prejudice – be that racism, sexism, or homophobia – is encouraged or is left unchallenged to multiply exponentially in the petri dish of intolerance; or where nihilistic death cults throw LGBT people from the tops of buildings, grossly perverting a peaceful religion to justify it.
We must all renew our commitment to tackling discrimination, bigotry and intolerance around the world. Key in the pursuit to take global action is the European Union, because we can achieve more together than we can alone.
The EU is driving the advancement of LGBT rights among member states and is enshrined in treaty, it promotes the recognition of same-sex marriage, and funds activism and research to combat discrimination. And the EU is crucial in the fight to end discrimination against LGBT people across the world.
The question about whether to stay in a reformed EU or to go it alone is not one merely to be viewed through the prism of dry economics. It is far more profound.
The decision to be made strikes at the heart of the debate of what sort of country we want to be, what sort of world we want to live in, and the values by which we want to live in the twenty-first century.
Our footsteps along the path towards justice and equality seem so small compared to those who have come before us, but the march must continue.
Whether in the UK or around the world all equality battles are related, so let’s keep on fighting and never give up until all LGBT people care free to be themselves.
Please sign our petition today to support staying in the EU, and continuing to be at the forefront of promoting LGBT rights.
Angela Eagle MP is Labour’s Shadow First Secretary of State and Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills.