Ministers praise LGBT History Month at launch event

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The palatial surroundings of the Royal Courts of Justice in London served as a fitting backdrop to the pre-launch event for LBT History Month 2008.

Representatives from the Crown Prosecution Service and the London Criminal Justice Board hosted Monday night’s event along with Channel 4.

Two government ministers addressed a crowd of more than 400 invited guests and praised the annual February event.

The Attorney General, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, highlighted the series of gay rights measures the government has passed since 1997.

She gave her backing to a new offence of incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation and praised the work the CPS is doing around the prosecution of hate crimes.

Dru Sharpling, the Chief Prosecutor for London, welcomed people to the event on behalf of the London Criminal Justice Board and spoke about CPS London’s success at tackling hate crimes.

Equality minister Barbara Follett commented that at 64 she was one of the older people in the audience, and said that in the recent past justice and LGBT issues did not go hand-in-hand.

“I find it amazing to be here tonight at the heart of British justice. We have come a long way in the past 50 years but we will still have a long way to go.

“More people than ever view our differences as something that makes us better, stronger, and adds vibrancy to our communities.

“The laws are in place and have the backing of the vast majority. We must now make people aware of what they mean in practice. That means changing people’s behaviour.”

Ms Follett attacked media personalities and TV shows that allow the use of the word ‘gay’ in derogatory fashion.

“It is not harmless banter, it is insulting and demeaning,” she said.

“History month plays a major role. If you know your history, you know where you are coming from.

“You also get some sense of where you are going to. We need to assess where are and look at where we are going.”

She congratulated Schools Out, Sue Sanders and Paul Patrick for their work organising LGBT History Month.

Other speakers were Richard Kirker from the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, trans campaigner Professor Stephen Whittle, playwright, director and performer Rikki Beadle Blair and Elly Barnes.

Ms Barnes is a teacher who has inspired her school to celebrate LGBT History Month fully and is now working to make sure that other schools in her division do the same.

“This was a superb event,” commented Paul Patrick, co-chair of LGBT History Month.

“To think that all this has been accomplished in only three years of existence.

“We are very proud of our relationship with the criminal justice system and all they have achieved and we look forward to the day when the education system, which should be at the heart of all this work, catches up!”

The fourth Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) History Month is in February and the pre-launch was designed to encourage local authorities, public and voluntary organisations, schools, universities, unions and individuals to organise their own events to mark history month.