Liberals still lead the way on gay rights

PinkNews logo on a pink background surrounded by illustrated line drawings of a rainbow, pride flag, unicorn and more.

Liberal Democrat equality spokesperson Lorely Burt argues that her party has led the way in gay rights.

Everyone knows that during last 10 years the fight for LGBT rights has made unprecedented advances.

Less known is the fact that the Liberal Democrats have been the principal driving force behind these changes.

Centuries ahead of his time, in 1785, liberal philosopher, Jeremy Bentham wrote the first known argument for homosexual rights in England. Freedom to act in any way you wish, so long as it does not cause harm to others, has been central to liberal philosophy throughout history.

Since 1785, things have moved on, but liberals still lead the way. The Lib Dems were the first to make Civil Partnerships party policy, and unknown to most, it was the Lib Dems who finally put the Civil Partnership Bill before parliament.

Furthermore, the Liberal Democrats were the only major party who promised, in their last manifesto, to put an end to the ridiculous situation where gay couples can legally be refused a room in a hotel or even a beer in a pub. Only following a backbench campaign, which included myself, did the Government agree measures like this should protect the LGB community, not just religious groups.

Still the battle goes on. The Government continues to sit by whilst LGBT teenagers are forced to put up with the social terrorism of homophobic bullying. We need action now to ensure that all schools challenge homophobic taunts immediately and that at least one member of staff is specifically trained in how to deal with homophobic bullying.

A tolerant society needs tolerant foundations and that is something we need to guarantee, the LGBT community has suffered too long.

The membership card of every Liberal Democrat features the phase “no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”; no-one should be, and we will fight so no future generations ever will.

Lorely Burt is MP for Solihull and Lib Dem spokesperson for Women and Equality

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