David Cameron: A celebration – and a challenge for us all

The Prime Minister salutes our Pink List, and says that, 10 years since its inception, it still has a vital role to play

Sunday 01 August 2010 00:00

I know The Independent on Sunday thought long and hard about whether it was still appropriate to publish a Pink List, given the progress made on equality since the first list 10 years ago. I'm pleased it has. The list is important for two reasons: it's both a celebration and a challenge.

Most obviously it's a celebration. The fact that the figures at the top of the list – Mary Portas and Gareth Thomas – are from the worlds of business and sport show how far we've come. For a long time there have been relatively few "out" business figures or sportsmen and women. Their success – and that of everyone on this list – sends out a powerful message. It says to every young person worrying about coming out, everyone who's suffered snide remarks at work, everyone who feels stigmatised or alienated that your sexuality should never hold you down or hold you back.

But as well as being a celebration, the Pink List is a reminder that we must go further. Yes, the UK is a world leader for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, but we cannot be complacent. As long as there are people out there feeling marginalised or threatened, we must continue to tackle prejudice.

Of course, politicians have a big part to play in that. When I first stood on the steps of Downing Street as Prime Minister I paid tribute to what the last government did to make our country a more open and tolerant place – and we're continuing that work. In June, the coalition government set out an ambitious programme which includes tackling bullying in schools, changing the law on historical convictions for gay sex that is now legal and commencing the Equality Act. It's also important that we maintain the drive on tackling hate crime in our communities and promoting better recording of homophobic attacks. Violent crimes like those committed on Ian Baynham and James Parks – which happen simply on account of someone's sexuality – are disgusting and we must do everything possible to stop them happening.

We are also using our relationship with other countries to push for support for gay rights and for UK civil partnerships to be recognised internationally. Only last month, Home Affairs and Justice Minister Nick Herbert was in Poland taking part in Euro Pride in Warsaw, where he addressed the crowd, telling them of the progress made in the UK and congratulating the thousands of people who were marching for equality there.

I know there is one other subject that the gay community is particularly interested in: marriage. As someone who believes in commitment, in marriage and in civil partnerships, my view is that if religious organisations want to have civil partnerships registered at their places of worship that should be able to happen. Last week the Equalities Minister held listening events with faith groups and representatives of the gay community, as we consider what the next steps are for civil partnerships and how we enable religious organisations to register same-sex relationships on their premises if they wish to do so. I think this is an important step forward and we will help to make it happen.

But making this country a more equal, open place isn't just a job for government alone. The truth is we will never really tackle homophobia in schools, the workplace or in sport just by passing laws. We need a culture change as well.

There's no single lever we can pull or even collection of measures that we can take to make that happen. The wall of prejudice is also chipped away by high-profile role models, by public celebrations, by a positive approach to diversity. That's why I am proud that there are now more openly gay MPs in the Conservative Party than any other party. It's why I wish the upcoming Pride events – today in Leeds, all week in Brighton and on Saturday in Liverpool – every success. And it's why I congratulate everyone on this list for doing their bit to inspire and change attitudes. This is a country where people can be proud of who they are – and quite right too.

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