Today marks the start of Pride Month. This year, June is also the 50th anniversary of the New York Stonewall riots which were instrumental in the fight for LGBT+ rights. The anniversary serves as an important reminder of the impact of those momentous riots and how far we have come in the campaign to end discrimination and violence against LGBT+ people. As well as being a celebration, Pride Month and the parades that will take place all over the UK this summer are an opportunity to raise awareness about the barriers still faced by the community and the steps we still need to take to tackle and eradicate the prejudice experienced by LGBT+ people. We still have so far to go.
Over the last 50 years, the hard work by campaigners and rights groups has seen the UK take hugely progressive steps in the right direction. In my lifetime alone our country has overcome so many barriers in the fight for equality. I am proud to have been a part of this fight and particularly proud to have introduced the amendment to repeal the abhorrent Section 28 in 2003 and to have been a part of legislating for equal marriage when Liberal Democrats were in government. It is shocking to recall how recently the UK banned the “promotion” of homosexuality in Britain’s schools (under Section 28) and denied people the right to marry the person they love because of their gender.
Despite this progress, the UK in 2019 is still living in the dark ages when it comes to key aspects of the lives and rights of LGBT+ people. The Conservative government, propped up by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), has failed to extend equal marriage to cover Northern Ireland. For over two years there has been no devolved assembly in Belfast and while in this time the Conservatives have consulted on using their powers to change laws, including those covering alcohol licensing laws for the British Open, they have still failed to address this huge injustice. Same-sex couples in Northern Ireland must still travel away from home to have their marriage legally recognised. This draconian and heart-breaking situation persists despite calls from campaigners, including the partner of murdered journalist Lyra McKee.
The UK also still lags behind several of our EU partners on the issue of introducing an “X” gender option on passports and the Tories have dragged their feet on the long-overdue reform of the Gender Recognition Act. Meanwhile trans people are still subject to intrusive tests to have their gender recognised. Liberal Democrats are committed to campaigning for equality. LGBT+ rights are human rights, and these lie at the heart of who we are as a party. That is why we will continue to campaign to tackle these persistent prejudices and work towards achieving equality for all.
At home and abroad there is still much progress to be made when it comes to LGBT+ rights. This Pride Month, 50 years on from the Stonewall riots, is an opportunity to recommit to protecting and enhancing human rights and equality for all. It is a time to remind ourselves of the discrimination and violence still experienced by LGBT+ people globally and to redouble our efforts in eradicating that prejudice. Liberal Democrats should be proud of the role we have played in the campaign for equality, but we must never be complacent. There is still far to go in the fight to end discrimination and bigotry.
Ed Davey is a Liberal Democrat leadership candidate and MP for Kingston and Surbiton