The shortlist has been revealed for the PinkNews Award for Politician of the Year.
The award recognises contributions towards LGBT+ equality from politicians across the political spectrum, and all regions of the UK.
Last year’s joint winners were out former Education Secretary Justine Greening MP and Scottish National Party MP Hannah Bardell.
Other esteemed previous winners include Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP, former Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP, and the Chair of Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee, Maria Miller MP.
This year’s shortlist recognises the ongoing contributions of politicians on a range of issues. The continued fight for equal marriage in Northern Ireland remains prominent, as do gender recognition reform and work to tackle gay ‘cure’ therapy.
The 2018 PinkNews Awards will take place on October 17.
You can cast your vote here.
The shortlist is below:
Out Tory peer Lord Hayward has a long legacy on LGBT+ rights. A former rugby referee, the peer founded gay rugby club the Kings Cross Steelers.
In March 2018, the peer introduced a private members’ bill aiming to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, in tandem with a bill in the Commons by Labour MP Conor McGinn.
The cross-party bills have strong support from the region’s LGBT community, with activists arguing that the onus is on Westminster to legislate for human rights in the absence of the Northern Ireland Assembly, which collapsed more than a year ago.
The twin bills have also earned backing from across much of the political spectrum in Northern Ireland, keeping pressure on the UK government to commit to reforms.
The Northern Ireland-born Labour MP has spearheaded efforts in the House of Commons to bring equal marriage to the region, which is the only part of the UK without marriage equality.
The MP for St Helens North hopes that his bill will keep up pressure on the UK government to act on the issue, adding that in the absence of a Northern Ireland Assembly, Westminster has a “moral and political duty to act and bring in legislation to end this discrimination once and for all.”
He wrote for PinkNews: “Let me be clear. I would like to see a fully functioning Northern Ireland Assembly up and running and making the decision to allow equal marriage.
“But in its absence, which has been for over a year now, I believe LGBT couples in Northern Ireland should not have to wait any longer for this injustice to end.”
Sinn Féin’s leader in Northern Ireland has made LGBT+ rights central to the party’s platform in the region.
While serving as a health minister in the previous power-sharing government in 2016, O’Neill was responsible for lifting Northern Ireland’s permanent ban on blood donation by gay men, in a significant reversal of the previous policy.
She has become a powerful advocate for equal rights in the region, telling the PinkNews Belfast reception in June that any future power-sharing settlement would respect the rights of LGBT+ people and settle the issue of same-sex marriage.
Despite the party’s Irish republican beliefs, in the absence of power-sharing O’Neill made the exceptional decision to give Sinn Féin’s backing to legislation on same-sex marriage in the UK Parliament – a body whose authority the party typically does not recognise.
She told PinkNews: “As an Irish Republican, it does not sit easily with me that we would legislate here in Westminster – but we believe there is a way to do it.
“We are happy and content that [there is] a route that can hopefully lead to a positive outcome for our citizens who just want the same rights that people have elsewhere. It’s a very reasonable request.”
Naomi Long is the leader of the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, a centrist and non-sectarian party seeking to bridge across the region’s nationalist and unionst divide.
While serving as an MP in 2013 Long voted in favour of the bill that brought equal marriage in England and Wales, and after her election to the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2016 she helped broker a cross-party effort to bring the same equality to Northern Ireland,
Under her leadership, Long’s party has also pressed for the implementation of a long-delayed strategy to tackle LGBT inequality and homophobic bullying.
In June 2018, the Alliance Party selected Antrim and Newtownabbey councillor John Blair to serve on the Northern Ireland Assembly – making him the first openly gay person to serve on the body.
A member of the Presbyterian Church, Long has also been vocal about her interpretation of faith amid a climate of anti-LGBT hostility, speaking out against the church leadership’s decision to ban same-sex couples.
The Tory MP has a long record of advocating for LGBT rights in government.
As a junior Defence Minister, in 2016 Mordaunt ensured that civil same-sex marriages would be available to couples on British military bases across the world, and the same year gave the green light for the Red Arrows to perform a flypast to mark the Pride in London celebrations.
Mordaunt became Minister for Women and Equalities in April 2018, and has pushed forward with several long-awaited LGBT+ rights reforms, announcing an action plan in July 2018 that commits to outlawing gay ‘cure’ therapy, strengthening protections against anti-LGBT hate crime, and advancing long-awaited reforms on transgender rights.
This year Mordaunt has also launched the government’s consultation on reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, fulfilling a key commitment made by Theresa May at the PinkNews Awards 2017.
Mordaunt has defended proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act in the face of hostile media coverage and single-interest campaign groups opposed to reform, consistently arguing that transgender people deserve respect and a system that treats people sensitively.
A new face to the House of Commons, Layla Moran has wasted no time in advocating for equality.
As the Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Education, in 2018 Moran has been vocal on the need for LGBT-inclusive education in all schools, from advocating for gender-neutral uniform policies to pressing for England to follow the Welsh government in allowing LGBT-inclusive Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) in all schools.
She said: “Education ministers must get on with it and make sure that all pupils in every school get appropriate and comprehensive sex and relationships education fit for the 21st century.”
The Scottish National Party’s Christina McKelvie has spearheaded cross-party work on LGBT+ rights within the Scottish Parliament as Convener of the Equalities and Human Rights Committee.
In March 2018, the committee gave its backing to the Historical Sexual Offences (Pardons and Disregards) Bill to extend automatic pardons to men with historical gay sex convictions in Scotland.
McKelvie said: “The Committee hopes this Bill will help people to move on with their lives, and that we are helping to right a historic wrong.”
In June 2018, McKelvie was named the Scottish Government’s Minister for Older People and Equalities.