Current Affairs

Blair’s record on gay rights praised

Tony Grew June 27, 2007
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The government’s progress on gay rights has been praised by leading members of the gay community and politicians from all sides.

Tony Blair leaves office today after ten years in office. During his tenure the rights of LGBT people in Britain have been transformed.

Stephen Williams, the Lib Dem MP for Bristol West, who is an out gay man, said of Mr Blair:

“No-one could deny that the country is a more comfortable place for gay and lesbian people than it was ten years ago and some of the credit for this must go to Tony Blair.”

Patrick Harvie, a Green Member of the Scottish Parliament, told that the country has been transformed in the last decade:

“I think over the last ten years there have been significant legislative changes, but just as important are that those changes are supported right across the political spectrum.

“Social attitudes have changed in relation to sexual minorities. That is every bit as important as the legislation and I guess the only question for Mr Blair is if he wants to change social attitudes next time he meets the Pope.”

Labour MP Chris Bryant, who is one of a handful of MPs who are openly gay, told

“It’s amazing how much has changed in ten years under Labour -an equal age of consent, gays in the military, gay adoption, civil partnerships. It is an exemplary record of which he and Labour should be proud.”

Mr Bryant was one of the MPs who urged Mr Blair to stand down last year. He said he was not expecting to get a job in the new Brown government, and said of Mr Blair’s departure from domestic politics:

“It is the right thing to happen. I worked for the party back in the early 90s and have known Tony Blair for a long time. It will be sad, but he will go with his head held high.

Mr Blair will make his last appearance in the Commons this afternoon at Prime Ministers Questions.

Ben Summerskill, the chief executive of gay equality organisation Stonewall, said:

“It’s unthinkable that 10 years ago a prime minister would have attended Stonewall’s annual fundraising dinner, as Tony Blair did in March.

“That sums up some of the hugely positive changes over which he’s presided.

“There’ll always be people who cavil but a catalogue of things from civil partnership to repeal of Section 28 have really changed the lives of gay people in this country on his watch.

“As always with politics he could have done more in his earlier years, but that’s a minor point. He leaves Britain a more civilised country than when he took office.”

Activist Peter Tatchell told that while Mr Blair has a good record on gay issues, his successor does not.

“Gordon Brown has missed more gay equality votes in parliament than any other MP,” said Mr Tatchell, who in addition to his campaigning work with OutRage! is the Green Party parliamentary candidate for Oxford East.

“In 13 out of 14 votes in the House of Commons Mr Brown has not bothered to turn up and vote.

“While I doubt he is homophobic, he has failed to make any serious effort to vote in favour of gay law reform.

“The out-going Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and other Labour Ministers have a much better track record when it comes to voting for gay equality.”

Mr Blair is to take up a new role as a peace envoy to the Middle East on behalf of the UN, America, Russia and the EU – an announcement on the job will be made later today.

The BBC reports that Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said Mr Blair told him on Friday evening he was going to accept the appointment.

Mr Blair is expected to immediately resign as an MP, meaning today’s PMQ will be his last appearance in the House of Commons.

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