Exclusive: Maria Miller: The PinkNews Awards marked an historic year for equality

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Writing exclusively for PinkNews.co.uk, Maria Miller, Culture Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities, speaks of her delight at attending last night’s inaugural PinkNews Awards, and says it was a chance to reflect on a remarkable year. 

I was pleased to attend the PinkNews Awards last night, where my colleague Baroness Tina Stowell won Politician of the Year for her work on equal marriage, and where another of my Conservative colleagues, Mike Freer won an award for Speech of the Year. Congratulations to them both. It was a great event to mark a year which has seen historic legislation passed by a Conservative led government.

It is now three months since Parliament passed the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act which paves the way for same-sex couples to marry in England and Wales. I have always said it was simply the right thing to do and it was a huge achievement that the legislation passed through both Houses undefeated.

I think we should be proud that we live in a society that has made this possible. And thanks must go to Out4Marriage, the PinkNews-led campaign, and others like it that have supported equal marriage over the last few years. We are joining an ever growing list of countries across the world that enable same-sex couples to marry, alongside France, New Zealand and just this Tuesday the Australian Capital Territory.

You can be assured that across government work is underway to put in place all the necessary arrangements to ensure same-sex couples can marry as soon as possible, and we plan to celebrate the first same-sex weddings in England and Wales by next summer.

So we have a lot to be proud of. With our strong framework of legal rights, the UK is ranked No 1 in Europe on LGB&T equality by the International Lesbian and Gay Association. But the work doesn’t stop there. Legal rights are extremely important – they drive, and reflect, changes in attitudes in society. But we still have more to do to ensure that the significant shift in attitudes towards LGB&T people over recent years continues and gathers pace. Last night’s awards reflect the breadth of work being done to do just that – in our communities, in business and in the media, as well as in politics.

As I mentioned in my piece for PinkNews back in June, before the end of this year we will launch our LGB&T Call for Evidence. Since our action plans were first published in 2011 the government has delivered the overwhelming majority of the commitments and now is the right moment to take stock. The Call for Evidence will ask for views on what are the biggest issues still facing LGB&T people in this country and as I have previously said I would encourage readers of PinkNews to contribute their views.

Last night’s event was a chance to reflect on what has been achieved this year and what it will mean for the many same-sex couples up and down the country who have been waiting for the chance to celebrate their love for each other through marriage.

Maria Miller is the Culture Secretary and the Minister for Women and Equalities

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