Equality and social justice are values that lie at the very heart of the Labour movement. From the campaign for universal suffrage through the social reforms of the Sixties; the introduction of the Equal Pay Act inspired by the women of Ford Dagenham to Sure Start and the Equality Act. It’s Labour governments that have always strived to make Britain a more equal, fair and tolerant country.
Indeed, one of the greatest legacies of the last Labour government was the progress we made to sweep away decades of legislation based on the prejudice and persecution of lesbian, gay and trans individuals. Abolishing Section 28, equalizing the age of consent, adoption rights for gay couples, fertility treatments for lesbian couples, removing the laws which prevented our armed service men and women from being open about their sexuality, and establishing civil partnerships.
In politics too, we have seen pioneers in our party – Chris Smith and Angela Eagle who stood up and spoke out at a time when being openly gay or lesbian in British politics was a lonely experience. Today, we have record numbers of openly LGBT candidates standing for Labour at this election, including Emily Brothers, our party’s first openly trans candidate in Sutton and Cheam. And another political pioneer, Michael Cashman OBE, will become Britain’s first LGBT rights ambassador under a Labour government. These are recent advances our country has taken that we should never forget, particularly as we celebrate LGBT History Month.
The next Labour government still has work to do to ensure LGBT people experience equal treatment: as users of public services, in the workplace, in our communities and across the world. And key to delivering this progress will be working with colleagues in every department to ensure equality is a priority across every area of government. But, although it doesn’t seem like it to some in politics, legislating is often the easy part. Cultural change, the battle for hearts and minds takes time and will need renewed commitment from all those who’ve fought for progress.