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Opinion

Britain has led the way in championing LGBT+ rights

Helen Grant April 21, 2018
A Colombian LGBT community member takes part in a rally on June 15, 2016, in Cali, Colombia, in solidarity with the victims of the Orlando mass shooting. / AFP / LUIS ROBAYO (Photo credit should read LUIS ROBAYO/AFP/Getty Images)

(Getty)

Britain has led the way in championing LGBT+ rights, and while we should be proud of how far we have come, we still have more to do.

Five years ago, David Cameron was pivotal in ensuring that we secured equal marriage, ensuring that same-sex couples enjoy the same right as everyone else to legally wed. I am very proud that we saw that through.

It was a huge step forward.

Although civil partnerships did exist as an alternative to marriage, by offering only a ‘separate but equal’ option society was still sending a signal to gay men and women everywhere that their relationships were somehow ‘less than.’

This step has made British society stronger. The redefinition of marriage to include same-sex relationship is very much in keeping with Britain’s proud traditions of equal worth and inclusivity.

It will make a huge difference for people’s lives and will continue to do so for future generations.

For the millions not yet born, they will no longer meet with closed doors, excluding them from experiencing one of the most significant moments of anyone’s life.

(Photo by GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images)

The importance of this should never be downplayed. This was a historical moment for Britain, and a historical moment for the sanctity of human love.

I am very proud to have been one of the Ministers involved in seeing this legislation through. This was, and remains, an issue that is very close to my heart.

I have seen first-hand the difference that this has made to people’s lives. Now everyone has the same opportunity to stand up in front of their family, friends, and loved ones and commit themselves to the person that they love for the rest of their life.

The dial is visibly turning and this was, understandably, a crucial moment for the LGBT+ community but the progress we have made as a government does not stop here.

With ‘Turing’s Law’ at the beginning of last year, we issued posthumous pardons to the thousands of gay and bi-sexual men who suffered under past anti-gay legislation.

We can never undo the hurt and destruction those laws caused, but we can apologise and make efforts to right those historic wrongs.

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Last year we abolished from our statute books the last remnants of the historic legislation which discriminated on the grounds of homosexual orientation.

Conservative MP John Glen’s Private Members Bill now prohibits the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act from allowing the dismissal of a seafarer on a merchant navy vessel for an act of homosexuality.

When it comes to employment, in the merchant navy or anywhere else, what matters is your ability to do the job – not your sex, age, background, or sexual orientation. This belief lies at the core of Conservative values.

But it is dangerous to rest on our laurels and think the job’s done. To ensure that these changes remain a permanent part of the social and legal landscape, and to prevent future threats which might erode them, education is key.

If we can educate and address homophobia from a young age, we can tackle it at its root.

This government has invested a £3 million programme in charities working to address and prevent homophobic, biphobic, and transphobic bullying in schools in England.

We must start conversations from a young age, so that no child or teenager need live in fear of standing up and being who they are.

It is up to us to offer the younger generation the tools to be confident in their own skin and emphasise that homophobia has absolutely no place in our society. We are all equal.

(Photo by MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images)

We need to keep up our action, teaching inclusive relationship and sex education in English schools, making sure that LGBT+ issues are taught respectfully and appropriately and that they do not slip down, or off, the agenda.

Yes, we have come far, and yes, we can be proud of the walls that have come down, but there are still many thousands of people, many of them adolescent and young adults, who feel isolated and alone, living with a deep fear of not being understood, a fear of being rejected, and even fear for their physical safety.

The government’s desire to engage and listen is there. In July last year we launched a consultation to understand the experiences of LGBT+ people living in the UK.

We listened to their experiences at work, in education, and in healthcare, as well as issues around personal safety, so that we can shine a light on the areas where we need to improve and build upon the formulas that are working.

We want no voice to be left unheard, and no corner of society to be ignored.

At the end of last year, Theresa May made a personal appearance at the PinkNews Awards, where she reflected back on the progress that has been made, but also commented on what still needs to be done to streamline the Gender Recognition Act.

She said that ‘being trans is not an illness and it shouldn’t be treated as such.’

Britain has led the way, and we will continue to champion LGBT+ rights. We are a Nation with a great history of inclusivity and we must keep working to ensure that we are building a country that works for everyone.

More: LGBT, LGBT rights

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