Comment: Why I’m flying a rainbow flag over Whitehall for IDAHOT, by Nicky Morgan
Education Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Nicky Morgan writes for PinkNews on the importance of celebrating IDAHOT, and why her department is flying a rainbow flag to mark the day.
Today people will be coming together all over the world to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT) and I could not be more delighted about the progress that’s been made.
There will be celebrations across the UK and if you’re in London you may have spotted Stonewall’s human rainbow on Friday or Transport for London’s rainbow branded black cab.
We have come a long way since the inception of IDAHOT in 2005 and the decision then to choose this day of commemoration – the same day, 25 years ago, when homosexuality was finally removed from the International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organization.
In the UK, there have, of course, been the first marriages of same sex couples, the first couples converting their civil partnerships to marriages and people can now change their legal gender without ending an existing marriage. We’ve also changed the law to enable historical convictions for consensual gay sex between people aged 16 and over to be disregarded so that they no longer show up on criminal records checks.
As the Prime Minister has said, marriage of same sex couples is one of the proudest achievements of the last government, and it’s fantastic to see the UK recognised by the International Lesbian and Gay Association which, just a few weeks ago, once again ranked us number one in Europe for LGBT rights for the fifth year running.
This is a great honour and a reminder that our commitment to equality also extends to countries where LGBT people still face harassment, violence and criminalisation. We are working to support them and engage constructively with other governments, drawing on our own experience in Britain and influential channels like the UN, EU and the Commonwealth.
But even at home, there’s absolutely no room for complacency. Hate crime is still too prevalent and discrimination and prejudice still takes a heartbreaking toll on too many LGBT people, blighting their mental health and holding them back in every area of their lives.
I’m determined to tackle this head on – not just as Minister for Women and Equalities, but also as Education Secretary.
That’s why we’ve made tackling this kind of bullying at school an absolute priority and introduced a £2 million fund to help schools prevent and combat homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. Early this year I was able to visit an inspirational school in Eastbourne tackling homophobic bullying. I heard from the pupils themselves about the difference this was making and I’m looking forward to visiting more schools like this across the country in the months ahead.
We need to act early to change attitudes and that’s why today the rainbow flag will be flying over my Department in Whitehall. I want to send the message out, loud and clear, that we share the same goal of creating a society where everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, is able to reach their full potential.
Nicky Morgan is the MP for Loughborough, the Education Secretary and the Minister for Women and Equalities.