Stonewall co-founder Lord Cashman has been honoured with Freedom of the City of London.

The activist and campaigner was awarded Freedom of the City today – a rare award given in recognition of extraordinary service.

Lord Michael Cashman has had a distinguished career of fighting for LGBT equality spanning several decades.

He started out as an actor, and is best known for appearing on EastEnders  as Colin Russell – making history with the first ever gay kiss in a British soap opera in 1987.

In 1989, the actor helped to co-found rights charity Stonewall alongside Sir Ian McKellen and Lisa Power MBE – and dedicated many years to campaigning. McKellen himself was awarded Freedom of the City in 2014.

Lord Cashman was also influential in shaping Labour policy on LGBT equality during the Blair era.

The campaigner was elected as a Member of the European Parliament for the West Midlands in 1999, and consistently championed LGBT equality in Europe until he stepped down in 2014.

He was appointed to the House of Lords the same year, and Ed Miliband named him the Labour Party’s special envoy on LGBT issues – though he has been occasionally critical of current leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Lord Cashman won a PinkNews Award in 2014, and picked up a posthumous award dedicated to his late civil partner Paul Cottingham.

Lord Cashman wrote: “Today I was given the Freedom of the City of London at the Guildhall. City where my mum cleaned offices, dad was a docker! Paul and they’d be proud.”

He noted that the Freedom gives him a number of ceremonial ‘perks’, including the ability to “take my livestock across London Bridge without paying any taxes”.