Why I’m delighted to fly the Pride flag at the Department for Education, by Nicky Morgan

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Education Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Nicky Morgan, writes for PinkNews on celebrating Pride, and announces new measures to tackle cyber bullying.

On Saturday 27 June, I’m delighted to say that the rainbow flag will be raised once more over my Department in Whitehall, in honour of Pride in London. I hope that it will not only act as a sign of this Government’s commitment to LGBT equality, but also that the fact that it is flying above the Department for Education makes clear our determination to ensure that the next generation of young people grow up into a country where discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity is a thing of the past.

This week I was delighted to attend the Pride in London Gala Dinner. It was a great honour to be part of a fantastic celebration of equality and the contribution LGBT people make to our society. I was particularly moved by Mary Portas’ moving speech about coming out and raising a family, and just how much society has changed even in the last decade. My thanks to her, the Pride in London team and all of the volunteers involved for organising such a fantastic programme of activity for the Pride festival.

It’s right that this pride season we should be celebrating those heros who have played such a fundamental role in tackling the discrimination and inequalities faced by LGB&T people. The Government is playing it’s part too, having passed equal marriage into law in the last Parliament, this Parliament will see us do even more to supporting LGBT people at whatever stage of their life, that is what governing as One Nation means, ensuring that no matter what your sexual orientation or gender identity, the Government ensures you have exactly the same chances in life.

That’s why we want to tackle the pernicious blight of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools and have launched £2 million fund to help schools tackle it. It’s encouraging to see, that many schools are already taking positive steps to address this type of bullying, and to create inclusive environments for all their students. I dropped into Caludon Castle School in Coventry this week to meet students and teachers who are doing excellent work in this area. Now I want to work to share the pioneering work of schools like Caludon Castle more widely, so all teachers have the knowledge and tools to tackle this issue head on.

This year the Pride in London march will be led by more than 200 London residents from around the globe, each bearing the flag of their birth nation, regardless of whether that country accepts or discriminates against them because they are LGB or T. Their place at the head of the march acts as a reminder that the UK has once again this year been recognised as the European leader on LGB&T rights and our continuing role as a beacon to the world in the fight for equal treatment and dignity.

Proud as we are to have our commitment to equality abroad recognised, that shouldn’t lead us to  think that the job is done at home. Last year the number of recorded sexual orientation hate crimes in England and Wales rose by 8% to 4,622 in 2013/14 and the number of recorded transgender hate crimes rose by 54% to 555, some of this will no doubt be due to a welcome rise in reporting of hate crimes. But let me be clear one hate crime is too many  and in order to protect LGB&T people fully, we need to do even more. No –one should have to live in fear or suffer in silence. Hate crimes, targeted at you because of who you are, can have a devastating impact on individuals.

This week, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, in partnership with the LGBT Consortium, launched a new campaign to raise awareness amongst LGB&T people about recognising hate crime for what it is and to encourage people to come forward and report it. Their research has shown that for every crime registered with police, nine more go unreported. That is a very disturbing statistic.

The EHRC has my full support in its campaign; people should know that we have tough sentencing laws in place and that these abhorrent crimes will not be tolerated.

But it not just physical abuse that can blight the lives of LGB&T people and prevent them from reaching their full potential. We know that online abuse can take its toll too. According to Stonewall, 23% of LGB pupils said they had experienced cyberbullying and one in twenty LGB adults say they have been the target of homophobic abuse or behaviour online in the last year.

That is why today I’m pleased to announce that we are launching a new ‘Stop Online Abuse’ website to help people take action against offensive, damaging or threatening content in all forms of media, particularly online. The Stop Online Abuse website was developed by Galop and a number of other LGB&T and women’s organisations and provides practical advice for women and LGB&T people on how to recognise abuse, steps to take to report it and how to get offensive content removed.

This site is another sign of our determination to tackling discrimination in all its forms and to creating a fairer society for everyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Events such as Pride give us a chance to come together to celebrate the real progress being made in this country.  I wish everyone celebrating at Pride in London on Saturday a really great day.

Nicky Morgan is the MP for Loughborough, Education Secretary and the Minister for Women and Equalities.