Take away these fifty faces and Britain would be a poorer place

The stalling of Section 28 shows we still don't accept gays. Why?

Thirty years ago, this list - which "outs" no one and includes only the names of those happy, or willing, to participate - would have been an exercise in journalistic "name and shame". Those featured would, in many instances, have felt obliged to resign from their places of employment, or at least to consider their position.

Thirty years ago, this list - which "outs" no one and includes only the names of those happy, or willing, to participate - would have been an exercise in journalistic "name and shame". Those featured would, in many instances, have felt obliged to resign from their places of employment, or at least to consider their position.

No longer. Today, Britain's gay and lesbian community has a place in society that is determined not by reference to its sexuality but by its contribution to the greater good.

Gay and lesbian people are active and increasingly confident in every walk of life. The list below may suggest to some that homosexuality inclines individuals more towards performance and the arts. In fact the disparity, which we acknowledge, is the result of lingering discrimination - or at least a perception of such discrimination - in certain key professions.

In business and politics, the atmosphere has lightened considerably. Police officers and military personnel, however, still find it difficult to admit it if they are not straight. They may be drummed out of the service or else goaded and bullied until they feel they have no alternative but to resign.

Judges and bishops are in a similarly invidious position. Lord Irvine, the Lord Chancellor, called last year for more gay and lesbian lawyers to present themselves for consideration as judges. None has so far done so. Hundreds of Anglican priests are gay, but they remain under intense pressure to stay silent. No gay bishop - and there are several - dares to admit his sexuality.

A similar picture has emerged in sport. Sportsmen and women work within an aggressively macho culture, and those who are gay feel it prudent not to advertise the fact.

That said, the Pink List is not just an innovation, it is a celebration. It should go from strength to strength.

PETER ACKROYD

One of Britain's leading novelists, a distinctive poetic voice and a consummate biographer, Ackroyd has long been admired as that rarity in modern times, a true man of letters. His Hawksmoor was a bestseller and at 51, he has added a history of London to his already prodigious output.

JOHN MARK AINSLEY

Ainsley is one of the great modern tenors and, at 37, one of the youngest. Had he been Italian, he would be fêted like Pavarotti. Last night he appeared in Salzburg, but is a regular in many of the great houses as well as a leading recording artist.

LORD WAHEED ALLI

The co-founder of Planet 24, one of the most innovative TV production companies of the 1990s, Alli is a New Labour peer. As director of Carlton Television, he was involved in negotiations with Granada and United News and Media that will set the pace for independent television.

SIR HARDY AMIES

The Queen's couturier for many years, Amies was a fashion guru before the term was invented, a living link with the era of Cecil Beaton and classic English style. At 91 he delivers his judgments on passing trends with an undiminished acuity.

CLIVE BARKER

Described as "a Lloyd-Webber of fantasy", Clive Barker has become a high-profile name in Hollywood. The cult horror writer, whose stories were turned into the films Hellraiser and Candyman, has signed a multi-million pound deal with Disney to create a rival to Harry Potter.

MICHAEL BARRYMORE

With his catchphrase of "awright", Barrymore is one of the nation's best-loved TV personalities, famous for game shows such as Strike It Lucky. Having recovered from a drink problem and the break-up of his marriage, he has moved into acting in the comedy Bob Martin.

NEIL BARTLETT

Artistic director at the Lyric, Hammersmith, since 1994, Neil Bartlett is known for his innovation in translating classic French plays into English. This year he received an OBE. Recent hits include Eugene Labiche's The Threesome and Marivaux's The Dispute.

SIR MICHAEL BISHOP

In the 1970s, British Midland was an obscure regional airline. Bishop, chairman since 1978, has transformed it into an international high flyer, strong in Europe and bidding to enter the US market. As well as his day job, he has been active in UK television and in the D'Oyly Carte Opera Trust.

GUY BLACK

After succeeding Mark Bolland as director of the Press Complaints Commission, Guy Black, 36, has been acknowledged as instrumental in making press self-regulation work. He also obtained support for the protection of Prince William's privacy.

RABBI LIONEL BLUE

Good morning John and good morning Sue and good morning everybody. Blue is by far the most enduringly popular religious figure in Britain, whose thoughts for the day on Radio 4 helped rescue the slot from dull piety and introduced BBC listeners to the joys of Jewish humour.

MARTIN BOWLEY

A prominent criminal lawyer,

Bowley QC is indicative of a love that dares to speak its name. Resigned as Crown Court Recorder when his

homosexuality was exposed

in 1988, he has since become

an outspoken advocate of legal reform and recognition of gay relationships.

BEN BRADSHAW

One of the wave of New Labour MPs to hit Westminster in 1997, Ben Bradshaw, MP for Exeter, has been one of the scourges of the "elderly homophobes" in the Lords during the Section 28 row. He also remains a committed Christian and a member of the Christian Socialist Movement.

NICK BROWN

Politicians are either lucky or unlucky. Brown, 40, has endured a terrible two years as Agriculture Minister, having to cope not just with the fall-out from the BSE scare but mass protests against the fall in farm incomes. His fortitude has been exemplary.

SIMON CALLOW

After appearing in Shakespeare in Love and Four Weddings and a Funeral, Simon Callow, 51, is one of Britain's most recognisable actors. He is a stage director and a writer, and last year published Love Is Where It Falls, telling of his complicated love life.

RHONA CAMERON

A former stand-up, Cameron won a Channel 4 comedy award in 1994 before moving to BBC2 to star in Gaytime TV. Rhona, her eponymously named sitcom, also on BBC2, confirms her as the Scottish Ellen - but without the post-outing downturn in her fortunes.

BEATRIX CAMPBELL

Women journalists tend to be either "soft" or strident. Campbell is both. A confirmed feminist, she has no time for the Tories and not a great deal more for Tony Blair's Labour Party. She is, however, always ready to offer advice, whether on the family, the clitoris or pensions.

MICHAEL CRAIG-MARTIN

As Millard Professor of Fine Art at Goldsmiths College, Michael Craig-Martin, 58, has helped nurture the Sensation! generation of British artists. An acclaimed artist in his own right, his works are exhibited in Tate Britain's "Intelligence: New British Art 2000" collection.

STEPHEN DALDRY

Like Sam Mendes, Daldry has recently moved from stage to screen, and his directorial début, Dancer, later renamed Billy Elliot, closed this year's Cannes Film Festival. A former artistic director at the Royal Court, he has attacked Blair's government for its lack of interest in the arts.

STEPHEN FRY

Writer, actor, comedian and all-round wit, Stephen Fry, 43, is one of Britain's most cherished stars. A man who lists "smoking, drinking and swearing" among his recreations, his film credits include Peter's Friends and Wilde. His brief disappearance only heightened his popularity.

EILEEN GALLAGHER

A co-founder and managing director of Shed Productions, Gallagher, 40, has reached the heights of the broadcasting industry. In recent years, she has also been a director at Granada and LWT, and managing director of Ginger Television.

BOY GEORGE

As lead singer in the 1980s pop group Culture Club, Boy George, real name George O'Dowd, shot to fame in Britain and America. Known for his outrageous dress and flamboyantly gay attitude, he has reinvented himself as a DJ, and even appeared on BBC1's Question Time.

MARK HARPER

A leading member of Withers, one of the top two family law firms in the country, Mark Harper has also been a vociferous campaigner in support of equal rights for same-sex cohabitants. He is listed as one of Chambers & Partners' top lawyers.

SIR NIGEL HAWTHORNE

Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister made Hawthorne a household name. His portrayal of the archly knowing Cabinet Secretary Sir Humphrey was a sustained comic triumph. The South African-reared actor later won international acclaim in The Madness of King George.

ROBERT HAYWARD

Now CEO of the Brewers' and Licensed Retailers' Association, Robert Hayward has had a high-profile career. After a 10-year stint in politics as a Tory MP, he went into industry. He is now director of Stonewall and president of the first gay rugby club.

PHILIP HENSHER

Once called the "waspish wonder boy of English fiction", Hensher claims he hasn't ventured out without a book since he was five. His novels, celebrating the strangeness of people's lives, sit alongside a growing body of criticism. Memorably, he labelled Harry Potter "thin and unsatisfying".

DAVID HOCKNEY

Few artists have achieved both popular and critical success. Hockney made it big in the 1960s with bright, colourful works that allied his English sensibility to a distinctly Californian milieu. Long resident in the USA, he recently completed a series depicting his native Yorkshire.

SIR HOWARD HODGKIN

Winner of the Turner prize in 1985 and knighted seven years later, Hodgkin is a supremely gifted abstract artist, with a pronounced lyrical gift, as well as an accomplished teacher and critic. His global haul of exhibitions, awards and honorary degrees must be unrivalled.

LAURENCE ISAACSON

A leading restaurant entrepreneur, Isaacson, 57, opened his first eatery in 1981. In 1985 he and business partner Neville Abraham set up Groupe Chez Gérard, now a public company with 24 restaurants across London. His success was rewarded with a CBE in 1998.

ALAN HOLLINGHURST

Few "literary" writers cover the gay territory like Hollinghurst. The Folding Star, shortlisted for the Booker, was "a tale of sexual obsession, love and death". In The Swimming Pool Library, we move from rough trade to Country Life. Next, perhaps, sex after death.

HOWELL JAMES

PR superstar James, 46, has spent his career working with, among others, government and the media. After a spell as BBC director of corporate affairs, he became political secretary to John Major until 1997. He is now a director of Brown, Lloyd, James Ltd.

RICHARD JAMES

You open a tailor's shop in Savile Row and who comes along waving their cheque books? Tom Cruise, Liam Gallagher, Robbie Williams, Hugh Grant, Dustin Hoffman, Robert De Niro, Guy Ritchie, that's who. Need we say more? James is simply the hottest tailor in town.

SIR ELTON JOHN

The leading diva of the age, Elton John is one of pop's survivors. He was nearly destroyed by depression and drugs before coming out and coming back. His "Candle in the Wind" was the most memorable moment in the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales.

REVEREND RICHARD KIRKER

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, Kirker has campaigned for years for the right of homosexuals to be ordained as full priests of the Church of England. But as general secretary of the Gay and Lesbian Christian Movement, he has been obliged to remain a deacon.

SIR CAMERON MACKINTOSH

Lord Lloyd Webber is all that stands between Mackintosh and his desire to be master of the theatrical universe. One of the country's richest men as well as an entrepreneur of genius, he decided to be a producer of musicals at eight. Among his hits are Miss Saigon and Les Miserables.

SIR IAN McKELLEN

Our greatest living theatrical knight, McKellen has bestrode the British stage ever since his first appearance in A Man for All Seasons in 1961. He is most famous for his Shakespeare interpretations, but is equally at home with contemporary writers.

ALEXANDER McQUEEN

If it were not for fellow Brits John Galliano and Stella McCartney, McQueen would be without peer in the rarefied world of haute couture. The London-born designer's shows in London and Paris are packed with ideas and conceived as pure theatre.

PETER MANDELSON

The Northern Ireland Secretary is cooling his heels a little just now. Peace, of a sort, has come to Ulster and the architect of New Labour's 1997 victory awaits his country's call once more. Neither innuendo nor scandal have dampened his zest for life at the top.

IVAN MASSOW

His defection from the Tories to Labour made headlines. It was only afterwards that people asked what it was the millionaire businessman could bring to the Blairite cause. But his reasons for deserting Hague were clear. The Tories, he said, "lacked tolerance and inclusivity".

PAUL O'GRADY

Somewhat strangely for a cross-dressing gay comedian, O'Grady is adored by middle England, which revels in the sassy scouse antics of his alter ego, Lily Savage - a skilfully created chimera somewhere between Bernard Manning and a pantomime dame.

MATTHEW PARRIS

Once he was a Tory MP, destined to become the Julian Critchley of his day. He lost his seat and took up journalism. Since then he hasn't looked back. His Commons sketches and travel pieces are models of their kind, while his columns are noted for humanity and wit.

CHARLIE PARSONS

Founder of the innovative TV production company Planet 24, Parsons made millions from its sale. Channel 4's The Big Breakfast was his idea. Survivors, now on American TV, was another. He specialises in creating original television formats.

NED SHERRIN

One of today's true luminaries, Sherrin's career as writer, director and producer is remarkable. For 40 years he has masterminded countless stage, television and radio productions, from the BBC's That Was the Week That Was to his Radio 4 programme, Loose Ends.

CHRIS SMITH

The Culture Secretary is one of New Labour's brightest stars. Like some of Labour's other top brass, he admits he relies on his partner to buy his ties. A distinctly un-flash politician, Smith entered the business the hard way, through the slog of left-wing Labour politics in Islington.

DAVID STARKEY

A leading historian of Tudor England, Starkey's TV series on Elizabeth I won higher ratings than Friends and Ali G. His incisive intelligence has enlivened many a dull debate on Radio 4, but it is his rudeness on air that has made him a national figure.

NEIL TENNANT

After 15 years of chart success fronting the Pet Shop Boys, Tennant remains a pop perennial the pundits cannot write off. His vocal style has remained constant through numerous image changes. The Pet Shop Boys' album, Nightlife, has been heralded as a return to late 1980s form.

WOLFGANG TILLMANS

Tillmans has become one of British art's hot properties. Tipped to win this year's Turner Prize, the German has developed a following here and in the US. From deeply autobiographical to highly descriptive, the sense of narrative in Tillmans' work is truly compelling.

STEPHEN TWIGG

It was a jubilant Stephen Twigg who ousted Michael Portillo from his Enfield Southgate seat in Labour's 1997 landslide. The former NUS president and member of the Electoral Reform Society has been one of the strongest exponents of the crusade to repeal Section 28.

NICK BROWN

Politicians are either lucky or unlucky. Brown, 40, has endured a terrible two years as Agriculture Minister, having to cope not just with the fall-out from the BSE scare but mass protests against the fall in farm incomes. His fortitude has been exemplary.

JEANETTE WINTERSON

Winterson, whose seminal Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit won the Whitbread Prize for a first novel, is a famously belligerent feminist. The much-lauded novelist recently sparred with the green-wellies brigade when she labelled Country Life magazine "a bunch of gay-bashers".

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