Political change can be grindingly slow and difficult to entrench, but when it comes to LGBT rights we can unequivocally say that over the 13 years Labour was in government we changed things beyond recognition for LGBT people in this country.
When I was first becoming politically aware many newspapers hounded gay celebrities and dubbed equality a loony left issue. This weekend, those very same papers published large features on ‘how to organise the perfect gay wedding’. It would be churlish not to cheer this sea-change.
But we should never forget how we got to this point. The revolution our party delivered in office: equalising the age of consent, ending the ban on LGBT people serving in our armed forces, the Gender Recognition Act, abolishing the hated section 28, the right to adopt for gay and lesbian couples, civil partnerships – each and every one of these measures hard-fought and a tribute to the campaigners who fought for change.
But people do not vote for the past, they vote for a vision for the future.
We have achieved a lot but the fact remains that a gay or lesbian couple walking hand in hand down the high street still turns heads. When that does not happen any more we will have achieved true equality.
The tragic case of Lucy Meadows is a stark reminder of the continued presence of ignorance and hostility LGBT people face. When more than half of lesbian, gay and bisexual young people self-harm, and one in four have considered taking their own life, it is not enough to wait for attitudes to catch up.
We must tackle the scandal of homophobic bullying in schools, but this is not just the job of teachers. We need leadership from role models like our sportsmen and sportswomen and bodies like the FA to stamp out homophobia on the terraces and the pitches just as they have worked to do with racism, to create an environment where it will no longer make national news for a footballer to talk openly about their sexuality.
We should welcome with open arms cross-party support for this agenda, but we must also be sure that Labour is the only party that will deliver it
David Cameron deserves praise for sticking with equal marriage but ultimately he could not bring his party with him – it was Labour votes he had to rely on to get legislation through.
It is this same reluctance that means the government are now dragging their feet on issues such as allowing civil partners to convert to marriage and preventing couples from having to dissolve their marriage in order for one spouse to gain gender recognition.
Nor can we expect a party with one foot out the door of Europe to provide the international leadership needed to challenge those countries like Russia and Uganda who deny the human rights of LGBT people.
A Labour government will appoint a new global envoy on LGBT rights to advocate on the world stage. We will make sex and relationships education which teaches about same-sex relationships and respect compulsory in all schools. We will commission a review of the Gender Recognition Act to bring it up to date and address the spousal veto issue for England and Wales.
Because, as the party of equality, it will take a Labour government to drive progress forward for the next generation.
Gloria De Piero MP is shadow minister for women and equalities. She tweets @GloriaDePieroMP
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