Current Affairs

Ruth Kelly attends Stonewall event

Tony Grew May 11, 2007
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Gay rights organisation Stonewall held a parliamentary reception on Wednesday evening to thank dozens of politicians from all the major political parties who were involved in securing new protections for gay people.

The Sexual Orientation Regulations outlaw discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation when accessing goods and services and became law on 30th April.

More than 50 MPs and peers attended the event, among them Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly.

Ms Kelly delayed the introduction of the regulations while the government considered an opt-out for Roman Catholic-run adoption agencies.

After a cabinet and backbench revolt, it was decided that faith-based agencies would have to comply with the law.

Stonewall’s chief executive Ben Summerskill said the event, held in the Jubilee Room at the Palace of Westminster, was not open to the press.

“We are delighted that Ruth attended on the evening of her 39th birthday,” he told

Ms Kelly has proved a controversial appointment as minister with responsibility for equality. Until her vote in favour of the SOR earlier this year, she had never voted for gay rights.

In a poll of readers conducted last weekend, 48% of the gay community felt that the appointment of Ruth Kelly as minister for equality was the biggest LGBT-related mistake made by Blair since 1997.

It seems that Ms Kelly continues to be the main point of contention when it comes to recent Labour relations with gays.

89% of LGBT voters thought she would be the worst possible successor to Blair.

Others attending the Stonewall reception included Cabinet ministers and deputy leadership contenders Alan Johnson and Peter Hain.

Ministers Meg Munn, Jim Fitzpatrick and Baroness Ashton were there alongside Labour MPs Angela Eagle and Chris Bryant, who put considerable effort into securing the new regulations.

Also present were opposition frontbenchers Nick Herbert, Charles Hendry, Baroness Barker and Lord Lester.

Environment minister Ben Bradshaw, who co-hosted the event with shadow equality minister Eleanor Laing MP, told the reception:

“These protections which will bring a huge improvement to the lives of gay people across Britain. Thanks must go to Stonewall. It’s one of, if not the, best lobbying organisations in the country.”

Eleanor Laing commented: “These protections were got after a long, hard battle fought in all corners – I assure you! – of the Palace of Westminster. This piece of legislation will make a difference to the lives of hundreds of thousands of people, thanks to Stonewall.”

Ben Summerskill said: “This is a historic moment for all lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

“A constellation of parliamentarians and others helped secure these changes. We’re enormously grateful to Lloyds TSB for their generosity in sponsoring this event”

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