Tony Blair: Equality laws for LGBT people great privilege of being Prime Minister

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

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On the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair reflects on his government’s role in progress for LGBT rights.

We have come a long way in the last 50 years on LGBT rights – legally, socially and culturally.

But the path to achieving that change has felt sometimes painstakingly incremental.

When I took part in a Parliamentary debate in 1994 making the case for equalisation of the age of consent, I said that “the most basic civilised value is the notion of respect for other people. That is what creates and sustains any decent society.”

Tony Blair and Cherie Blair after being elected Labour leader, 21 July 1994

We lost the vote on that night, but one of the privileges of being Prime Minister was that it made possible my determination to return to it and, using the Parliament Act, to see it through.

It is one of the things of which I am most proud because it showed our commitment to make real progress in power.

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The Labour Government championed equality and fought the pernicious prejudice which caused so much misery and made people hide their sexuality through fear.

So from repealing Section 28, the Gender Recognition Act, giving same sex couples the right to adopt, outlawing discrimination in the workplace and the provision of goods and services through to the introduction of civil partnerships, we changed the social and political landscape of our country.

And I was so pleased that David Cameron was able to take it further by introducing legislation for same sex marriages.

US President Bill Clinton, Cherie Blair, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and First Lady Hillary Clinton, 29 May 1997.

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So we have come a long way over the last 50 years and it’s right to celebrate.

But while there are still challenges, such as pupils subject to homophobic and transphobic bullying or LGBT people having to think twice about even holding their partner’s hand walking down the street, then there is still further to go.