Comment: Is Ed Miliband the leader to advance LGBT equality in Britain?

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The Labour party has been a good friend of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) community within Britain. Under their 13 years in power, our lives became unquestionably better.

Some of the changes were triggered by European court rulings but the overall pattern of change was huge. An equal age of consent, gays serving in the military, civil partnerships, gay adoption, protection from discrimination in the workplace and in the provision of goods and services, gender recognition, lesbian IVF rights and so much more. Even David Cameron has praised the last Government for making Britain a fairer, more tolerant place and has promised not to dismantle the good changes they achieved.

But while much was achieved, there are still things worth fighting for including true marriage equality and an end to the barbaric practise of sending LGBT asylum seekers back to countries where they face persecution with the advice that they will be ok as long as they are discreet. Gay men are still barred from donating blood and homophobia is still rife in many schools.

Thankfully, the Supreme Court has ruled that in the case of a number of individuals, the practise of deporting LGBT asylum seekers was illegal and the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats promised before the election that if in power, this would be something that will be stopped.

When it comes to marriage, the Conservatives are ‘considering the issue’ and the Liberal Democrats are expected to vote for marriage equality to be party policy at their upcoming party conference. 98 per cent of the readers of PinkNews believe that civil partnerships are ‘not good enough’ and instead wish to have full marriage equality.

At the last election, four of the contenders for the leadership of the Labour Party served in a Government who believed that civil partnerships were ‘good enough’, that the case for full marriage equality was weak. They believed that ‘separate but equal’ was enough. Now, too late to bring it into law by themselves, all five of the contenders say they support full marriage equality.

Because of the strong feelings of our readers, believes that full marriage equality is essential in order to truly tackle important issues such as homophobic bullying within schools or the fight for LGBT rights abroad. How can you tell a child that gay relationships are as valid as straight ones when gay relationships have their own ‘special’ class of recognition? How can we ask other countries to have LGBT equality when we can’t manage it ourselves?

Of the two candidates with a serious chance of wining, our readers have backed Ed Miliband, which will surprise many. Perhaps it’s because David’s perceived popularity within the LGBT community was just skin deep.

Some will have noticed the both of the Miliband brothers conversion to the marriage equality cause. In July David told “I’ve not got a closed mind on that. Many of my friends who are gay have had civil partnerships. They – and I – think of them as completely equal. I think it’s seen as gays and lesbians are equal. The last civil partnership I went to, there was no sense of all of this being anything other than the most complete private and public commitment to devotion.” Now he says he supports marriage equality.

Ed Miliband made a passionate case for LGBT marriage equality in an article for last month, rightly pointing out the cruel fact that a married person having gender reassignment must divorce their partner before being recognised in their true sex. “I know that civil partnerships were a major step forward, but I also hear those who want the genuine equality of gay marriage,” he wrote. “ ‘Separate but equal’ is not good enough and’s own recent poll demonstrated the huge support in the LGBT community for a right to marry. The cruel consequence of the current compromise is trans people forced to divorce their partners before they could be legally recognised in their new gender. I want to see heterosexual and same-sex partnerships put on an equal basis and a Labour Party that I lead will campaign to make gay marriage happen.”

Ed Miliband wasn’t the first of the candidates to back LGBT marriage equality, in fact he was the last. But he went on to call for an end to the ban on gay men donating blood and pledged that the Labour party would support reform of the way that LGBT asylum cases are handled. does not support any political party, but it does endorse the views of its readers (who at the last election overwhelmingly supported the Liberal Democrats). The Labour leadership contest has created some real opportunities for the advancement of LGBT rights in Britain. Unshackled from the grip of their former leader, all five candidates have called for policies that their party should have advocated while in Government.

It is interesting that among non-Labour party members (but voters), Diane Abbot is the most popular choice for leader. But these readers do not have a vote this month. She has been a good friend to the LGBT community and may well be a powerful advocate for policies that impact on our lives if she follows up her leadership campaign with a successful election to the shadow cabinet.

But of those that do have a vote this month, Ed Miliband is by far the most popular choice and we know that who ever goes on to lead the Labour party will almost certainly be a Miliband. If the elder brother is successful, we urge him to follow the same policies on LGBT rights that his young brother has advocated. believes that with the current balance of the House of Commons it will be possible for the Liberal Democrats, Labour party and liberal Conservatives to form a coalition to fight for LGBT rights. There are enough Conservative MPs that if given the opportunity to vote on the issue would support marriage equality and the end of the ban on gay men donating blood (the Government already supports changes to asylum policy). We hope that this fight will be led by Ed Miliband, so that he can help fix the messy situation left behind by the Government that he was a key member of and turn the nice sounding platitudes of all the candidates into real action.