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A happy day for equality

It’s not every day you get to make history by doing something that people do every day. But today couples across England and Wales will do just that by becoming the first people to enter into a same sex marriage.

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Opening up marriage to couples of the same sex who love each other and want to make that commitment is an important moment for equality in Britain and comes after decades of progress for LGBT people.

I’m proud that Labour MPs and Peers were able to give the Government the majority they needed to get Equal Marriage through. Sadly our Tory MP voted against this measure. Throughout our history, the Labour Party has stood shoulder to shoulder with those across the UK who have campaigned for the right to be treated no differently under the law simply because they choose to love someone of the same sex or their gender identity.

From equalising the age of consent, to ending the ban on LGBT people serving in our armed forces; giving gay couples and individuals the right to adopt children, to allowing people to legally change their gender; and of course scrapping the hateful Section 28. In Government we brought through historic changes which have transformed the lives of LGBT people across the UK.

It wasn’t always easy, when we created Civil Partnerships we met with opposition, but it was the right thing to do to show that as a society we value, recognise and reward that loving commitment in the same way we do couples of the opposite sex who choose to marry.

Now same sex couples will be able to demonstrate that commitment by making marriage vows themselves in civil ceremonies and in the case of Quakers and Reform Jews, religious ceremonies too. Of course not every religious group is the same, and religious organisations will not be required by the law to marry same sex couples, because freedom of religion is also important.

And the Government need to speed up work now to allow couples to convert their civil partnerships into marriage too.

Whilst we have come a long way towards equality in law, it is important to remember that people across the UK and the world still live with homophobia and face discrimination and sometimes persecution for their sexuality and gender identity.

Labour will continue to lead this fight, but today is a day to celebrate with all the happy couples, same sex or opposite sex, who are walking down the aisle today.

 

LABOUR’S RECORD

Between 1997 and 2010 the Labour Government did more for the advancement of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans equality than any other government in British History.  In government, Labour:

  • Achieved an equal age of consent

  • Ended the ban on LGBT people serving in our armed forces

  • Ended discrimination against Lesbian & Gay partners for immigration purposes

  • Gave LGBT individuals and couples the right to adopt children

  • Scrapped the homophobic Section 28 (Clause 2a in Scotland)

  • Become a signatory of the Treaty of Amsterdam, which gave the EU powers to end discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation

  • Banned discrimination in the workplace and in vocational training with the introduction of the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations

  • Created the Equality and Human Rights  Commission (EHRC) which gives LGBT people statutory body protection

  • Included homophobia in the definition of hate crimes

  • Increased sentencing for homophobic hate crimes

  • Removed outdated offences such as gross indecency and buggery

  • Produced and implemented the Gender Recognition Act, allowing Trans people to have their true gender recognised in law

  • Created Civil Partnerships

  • Outlawed discrimination in goods and services (with no exceptions)

  • Launched a campaign in the UN for the Decriminalisation of Homosexuality focusing on the nine countries where it is still punishable by death

  • Awarded statutory rights for fertility treatment for Lesbians on the NHS.

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