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Foreign secretary David Miliband responds to readers’ criticisms

David Miliband July 7, 2009
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Several weeks ago, foreign secretary David Miliband wrote an exclusive comment for on Pride and Britain’s work abroad for gay rights.

Some readers questioned whether the foreign secretary believed work on gay rights in Britain was complete, citing high levels of homophobic bullying in schools and, as yet, no marriage for gay couples.

Here, he responds to your comments.

Dear all,

Thank you all for the comments in response to my posting last week.

Pride seemed to be an immense success, with just the right mix of politics and fun: we have heard much important debate about the many challenges facing gay rights in the UK and we saw around one million people in central London demonstrate the energy and enthusiasm that make Pride London so unique.

I was glad so many of the responses to my piece recognised the progress Labour has made, but equally I was concerned that some readers had interpreted that I was suggesting Labour’s work on LGBT rights had been completed in the UK and that our attention was now turning abroad. I firmly believe that we, as progressives, have a duty to fight for equality and fairness which transcends our national borders, and I am proud of the work we do abroad. But equally I am clear that the fight for equality in the UK is by no means complete and we have further to go. Dramatic change has been created since 1997, but there is much to do on transgender rights; there is a debate to be had over equalising the rights of ‘married’ heterosexual and homosexual couples; we need a strategy to tackle homophobic bullying in schools; homophobia still features too regularly in elements of popular culture; and we need to ensure that we give fair consideration of all LGBT asylum applications, as Immigration Minister Phil Woolas has committed to.

These challenges are real and pressing, but they do not negate the fact that the UK is a world leader in protecting and promoting LGBT rights. We need to lead by example and use our position in the world to spread equality. Through the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the UN Human Rights Council, the UK has been at the forefront of efforts to ensure that the rights of LGBT people are respected, but we cannot relax when there remain eight countries that have a maximum penalty of death for consensual same sex relations and ten countries that have a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. As a matter of priority, we will seek to end criminalisation worldwide, protect LGBT activists as human rights defenders, ensure full and proper application of human rights and encourage greater support for HIV/AIDS programmes that include non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The fight for equality and against injustice at home and abroad will always be the principal cause of the Labour Party, central to which will always be the fight for LGBT rights. I believe our record differentiates us from our political opponents, but more importantly it is our commitment to drive this agenda forward that makes Labour the real party of social justice.

Best wishes,

David Miliband

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