Britain is now the European capital of gay rights. Just days before International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia, the UK has emerged as the best country in the continent for gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people to exercise their legal rights, according to the first study of its kind, to be published on Tuesday.
Britain's recognition of civil partnerships and its anti-discrimination laws have propelled it to the top of the European International Lesbian and Gay Association Europe (ILGA-Europe) index, which rates 49 countries on more than 40 categories.
Scotland played a "leading role" in the UK's success, said an ILGA-Europe spokesperson, who pointed out that hate crimes "aggravated" by gender identity are explicitly recognised by Scottish law. "The UK is among the countries where LGBTI people feel much safer and more secure," he said, adding that social and cultural attitudes were not considered in the report.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary and equalities minister, said she was "delighted" to see Britain "leading the way" and "breaking new ground". She added that the coalition's consultation on same-sex marriage, its sports charter and "the world's first transgender action plan" were part of the same project.
She added: "We must not be complacent and will continue to work to make Britain a great place to live for everyone."
Russia and Moldova are at the bottom of the rankings, along with Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and, perhaps more surprisingly, Macedonia. Lichtenstein, Monaco and San Marino also came near the foot of the index.
ILGA-Europe noted that last year saw "great progress" in European and international legislation, particularly in the fields of asylum and protection from violence. It also observed, however, that St Petersburg became the latest Russian city to introduce regional laws criminalising the "propaganda of homosexuality".
Stonewall's head of policy, Sam Dick, hailed Britain as a "beacon of equality to 400 million gay people around the world", but he added: "We must not underestimate how much work there is yet to do – not least in securing marriage equality and tackling the endemic levels of homophobic bullying in schools."
'Homophobia remains endemic in our schools; kids are still hiding'
Clare Dimyon, 47, an activist and teacher from Brighton, was appointed MBE in 2010 for promoting the rights of LGBT people in Central and Eastern Europe. Two years previously she had persuaded British embassies throughout Europe to raise the rainbow flag for the first time. She is on her way to Ukraine for the first ever Kiev Pride.
"It's really nice to see Britain at the top and especially to recognise all the fantastic work the British government has done in Central and Eastern Europe. The Foreign Office has taken this issue to heart – in contrast to the Department for Education. Homophobia remains endemic in British schools; kids and teachers are still hiding.
"There is great legal provision, but the weakness is that league tables are about legality and it's also about what's in people's hearts and minds. Once they recognise that a lesbian is a human being, they never go backwards."
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