When my parents were young it was illegal to be gay

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Meg Hillier, Labour MP and Parliamentary Private Secretary to Ruth Kelly in the Department for Communities and Local Government, analyses how much the government has changed gay rights in Britain.

As my children grow up it is unremarked that MPs, cabinet ministers and other public figures are gay and we now see couples celebrating civil partnerships thanks to the Labour Government.

Even a decade ago the world was a different place, remember Conservative polices such as section 28? It is good that the Conservative Party has now caught up with Labour thinking and action which has done so much to support gay rights in law.

But this is a British story of progress which does not apply to every country. Even in a world with varying attitudes to women there are few countries where a white heterosexual woman cannot visit. Yet for a gay man or lesbian there are still no go areas.

I recently spoke to a woman who had helped two anonymous orthodox Jewish lesbians access council housing. They contacted her in Hackney Council by phone. She never met them. The housing committee met in secret session to allocate them a home.

This is unusual in Britain. But there are countries where there is not even recourse to a secret committee to uphold the rights of individuals and couples to live in a loving relationship.

Many will remember the debates about immigration status for same sex partners. Now it is possible for same sex partners to be granted entry but there are many other issues which we need to address in countries where persecution and fear are still the norm if you are gay.

Meg Hillier is Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch and Parliamentary Private Secretary to Ruth Kelly.

This article first appeared in the September issue of The Pink News which is out now