Highlights from the PinkNews Summer Parliamentary Reception with Jeremy Corbyn, Will Young and Lorraine Kelly
PinkNews marked 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales last night at Parliament and were joined by Jeremy Corbyn, Justine Greening, Lorraine Kelly and more.
Mr Speaker John Bercow, who recently called on the Church of England to hold same-sex marriages in churches, kicked the evening off with a few words about the importance of continuing the fight for LGBT rights.
He said: “We don’t want to behave like it’s all over, everything’s been done and nothing remains because that isn’t true.
“I still feel we’ll only have proper equal marriage when you can bloody well get married in a church if you want to do so, without having to fight the church for the equality that should be your right.”
Mr Speaker went on to introduce PinkNews’ CEO, Benjamin Cohen.
As well as founding PinkNews, Cohen has been at the forefront of LGBT movements including chairing Out4Marriage – the successful cross-party campaign for same-sex marriage equality in England and Wales.
He said: “Fifty years ago today, you would still be standing in the country with the largest number of anti-gay laws on the statute book.
“Back then, a whole proportion of this room would be liable for state persecution, our love would have to be declared in private if we were brave enough and we would have had to be ever watchful of the long, and homophobic arm of the law.
Ahead of our awards ceremony that will take place on October 18, Cohen also announced the shortlisted nominees for the Third Sector Equality Award, Public Sector Equality Award and Business Equality Award.
He also opened the nomination process for the other categories, and you can now put in your nominations here.
Secretary of Education Justice Greening was then introduced to the podium by Cohen.
Greening, who was the first female cabinet minister to come out as lesbian, spoke about the steps the UK has taken since 1967 when homosexuality was partially decriminalised in England and Wales.
“Since 1967 we have taken many steps along that road that we can be proud of,” Greening said. “All of these were important milestones that set out the journey that our country was on, not just in Parliament but in public, and the fact that attitudes have changed.”
She added: “Britain now is genuinely a much more inclusive country than we’ve ever been, but we’ve got a long way to go, and there are too many pockets in our country where LGBT rights are something that are a mistake.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who recently warned Theresa May to protect LGBT rights as the Conservative party aligned itself with the DUP in an exclusive interview with PinkNews, spoke after Greening.
He also tackled the “backwards” gender recognition laws in the country, and following the event, he called on Prime Minister Theresa May to make changed to the Gender Recognition Act which “does not allow trans people to self-identify their gender and forces them to undergo invasive medical tests”.
The opposition leader also called on US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to not encourage anti-LGBT discrimination.
“I would hope that President Trump and Vice President Pence will reflect on what was said during that campaign, and recognise that they must represent all Americans, whatever their sexuality and orientation, and not encourage more discrimination against them, or indeed violence against them,” Corbyn said.
Lord Speaker Norman Fowler was introduced after Corbyn’s words. Lord Fowler has been an active politician since he entered parliament in 1970. He has been a pioneer in health policy around HIV/AIDS and is a patron of the British HIV Association of Clinicians.
In 2014 published the book AIDS: Don’t Die of Prejudice, which assesses the negative impact of stigma on HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention around the world.
Lord Fowler condemned archaic colonial-era laws that are still being used to persecute LGBT people across the world and insisted that the UK should be a pioneer in equality.
“Today we should seek to be an example of equal rights. We’re in a unique position to do that. In so many countries in the Commonwealth, they use past history as an excuse for present outrage,” Lord Speaker said.
George Montague was then introduced by Cohen. Montague, who has been dubbed “the oldest gay in the village”, is much loved in Brighton where he has been leading the Brighton Gay Pride celebrations in recent years.
For a large part of his life, Montague was forced to live a double like because of homophobic prejudice and laws prohibiting his sexuality. The 93-year-old had been arrested for having sex with a man 40 years ago and was placed on the “queer list”.
His conviction has since been quashed and Montague has recounted his life in his memoir, ‘The oldest gay in the village’.
Montague was joined at the ceremony with his partner of 22 years, Somchai.
He told the audience that he was “honoured” to speak at the reception, and used the opportunity to push for an apology for homosexual convictions from the government.
He said: “My speech was going to bully our government into doing the same for us, but I don’t think I need to bother. I think we’re going to get it.”
The PinkNews Awards is generously supported by Lloyds Banking Group.