LGBT History Month is a time for us to look back on how far we've come - and how far we have yet to go.
By Lynne Featherstone, Equalities Minister 2010-2015
We have come a long way in recent years.
I was the originator and architect of the same-sex marriage act, which legalised same-sex marriage in the UK on the 5th February 2013, when I was the minister for equalities in the Home Office. I came in at the end of the story when countless activists had been fighting to for this change - I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to take the bill to parliament. But it took the courageous Liberal Democrat politicians to make this change against big lobbying interests.
But just six years on, it feels ridiculous that anyone apart from extreme fringe groups would take issue with same-sex marriage.
I’m extraordinarily honoured and proud to have been part of such a legacy.
For many LGBT+ people, this fundamental change in law has made the most enormous difference to their lives.
And that’s not the first time the Liberal Democrats have stood with our LGBT+ community.
We opposed Section 28, a discriminatory law which prohibited the so-called promotion of homosexuality) right from the start.
We were the first political party to support trans people changing their legal gender, today we are still campaigning to streamline the law to allow individuals to self-identify without unnecessary bureaucratic hurdles.
The fight for equality goes on.
Only recently, a report from Stonewall showed that 42% of LGBT+ students hide their identity, for fear of discrimination. One in eight trans people are physically attacked in their place of work. LGBT+ asylum seekers face a humiliating process to enter our country and many are turned away, to go back to countries where they face discrimination and jail sentences, simply for being who they are.
We have a long way to go.
It is our duty and responsibility to fight for equal rights everywhere we can. For LGBT+ people to express who they are, without fear. For trans people to be seen as people and welcomed into all spaces. For people of any sexuality and gender to come and live here without persecution.
We must fight oppression in every form so that no LGBT+ person has to live in fear.
Our members make our policies, and incredible LGBT activists and allies have written comprehensive policies that will make our society a kinder and more equal place than it is today.
Our MPs, Peers and members are fighting for these rights every day:
- Trans people being able to change their legal gender and streamlining the Gender Recognition Act to make it easier.
- Businesses with more than 250+ employees to monitor and publish data on BAME and LGBT employees, not just gender.
- A standard curriculum addition for Sex and Relationship Education (SRE), which will include in SRE teaching about sexual consent, LGBT+ relationships, and issues surrounding explicit images and content.
- Gender neutral bathrooms, gender-neutral school uniforms, and ‘X’ option on passports, official documents and forms for those who do not wish to identify as male or female.
I also have a message to those people who believe they can restrict trans women’s rights, deny their human rights, or exclude them from women-only spaces in the name of feminism: You are not feminists. Your views are not welcome in the Liberal Democrats.
This LGBT+ History Month, let us celebrate our identities and our freedom of expression. Let us embrace people from all communities and be proud of who we are.
That is the Liberal Democrat way.