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After three years of equal marriage, we must continue the fight to eliminate discrimination, by Caroline Dinenage

Caroline Dinenage May 21, 2016
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Minister for equalities Caroline Dinenage has written for PinkNews on the third anniversary of the same-sex marriage bill for England and Wales, saying we must never stop in the fight to eliminate discrimination.

Last Monday evening I attended a reception with the Prime Minister to mark the annual International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia. While the global celebration marks the growing importance of the issue internationally, it also highlights where we as a nation we still need to act. The event was a fantastic opportunity to meet individuals at the forefront of the fight for equality and listen to their views on how and where we can go further. Amongst the many brilliant people I met were lioness Lianne Sanderson, from England’s women’s football team, and TV and radio presenter Vicky Beeching – both incredibly inspiring role models for us all.

It was hard not to be in awe of the people in my presence and the work they do, but if there is one thing I took away from the event it was the collective acknowledgement that this is not any one person’s job. It takes an army of people to really make change happen, and everyone has a role to play.

The Prime Minister’s words summed this up perfectly. He said “that while changing laws and practices are of course vital, it is in changing culture and people’s understanding that we will really see progress”. It is obvious that despite great progress, we must still push for change in government, in our institutions and our workplaces across the UK to ensure discrimination is quite simply eliminated for good.

We know that working with young people is where we can make a real difference. My friend and colleague Nicky Morgan, Secretary of State and Minister for Women and Equalities, returned from the G7 Education Ministers summit in Japan this week. Here, surrounded by education leaders from around the world, she raised the importance of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying within schools and discussed with her global peers how this can be effectively combatted and eliminated in the future.

An issue not normally raised at such events, her conversation sparked a new declaration, agreed by all seven participating nations, to highlight commitments on tolerance, non-discrimination and equality around topics such as sexual orientation and gender identity in our schools. It is an incredibly exciting step, and the Secretary of States’ focus on the LGBT community at this global level highlights our Government’s acknowledgement of its importance, and our absolute commitment to addressing the issue.

We are not going to solve these problems overnight, but by ensuring our next generation are taught to accept everyone’s individuality and reinforcing that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying is unacceptable we will develop a more inclusive society.

This isn’t just about talking though, it’s about taking action. That is why in March we announced that another £1 million will be made available to tackle this type of bullying this year. This new programme will build on our previous £2 million grant programme aimed at preventing and tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools.

Today marks yet another milestone – the third anniversary of the passing of the Marriage Bill for same sex couples. This legislation led to more than 15,000 couples marrying the partners they love in the first six months alone – making a lasting commitment to sharing their life together.

Whilst of course this was a hugely significant day, this is just one of many moments that we as citizens of this country should be proud of. We have continually taken a long hard look at ourselves and our policies to ensure that everything we do will have a positive impact on the LGBT community.

I am immensely proud and privileged to hold the position of Minister for Women and Equalities, helping to change and challenge outdated attitudes and beliefs. It is vitally important to me that we continue to push for change and celebrate diversity, ensuring that LGB&T people feel accepted and comfortable to express themselves, whether this means making a commitment through marriage or not.

We have, and will, continually lead the march for equality. We have to look beyond our own shores and continue to use our influence to help LGBT people around the world. We won’t do this by lecturing or pointing fingers, but by supporting activists and groups on the ground, helping them to learn the lessons from our journey towards equality under the law.

As a Government, and a nation, we are moving towards a more equal society. We can see this from the recent guidance we published for employers and service providers on supporting transgender people, to the development of a Transgender Organisations Network, to the fact that this year – for the first time – the Red Arrows will fly over London Pride in a show of support for LGB&T Armed Forces personnel.

I know and really appreciate how hard everyone is working to make life in the UK even better for our LGBT citizens. Ultimately real change doesn’t come from Westminster – it comes from you. Groups, communities, businesses and schools. People on the ground.

The LGBT community and its supporters have been re-energised and together I believe we can create an equal and accepting society so that our children grow up in a country that truly celebrates individuality.

As with all comment, this does not necessarily reflect the views of PinkNews

Caroline Dinenage, after being appointed as equalities minister, defended herself against criticism because she voted against equal marriage.

In 2015 she told PinkNews: “I know that some of your readers will be concerned about my voting record on same sex marriage however, I want to be clear – I am fully committed to advancing the cause of LGBT equality and support the law on same sex marriage.

“I’m proud that the UK has just been named the most progressive country in Europe for LGB & T rights for the fifth year running, but as the new minister for equalities I know there’s no room for complacency.

“That is why I’m particularly looking forward to taking forward this government’s work on tackling homophobic bullying in schools and implementing our manifesto commitment to introducing a new law that will build on the posthumous pardon for Alan Turing by erasing the historic convictions of those who would be completely innocent of any crime today.

“I’ll be meeting with LGBT organisations such as Stonewall as soon as possible to discuss this Government’s priorities for this parliament.”

Related topics: Caroline Dinenage, equalities, Government

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