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London Pride in Lib Dem News

July 30, 2010 6:21 PM
London Pride 2010 - Caroline Pigeon, Ros Scott, Lynne Featherstone, and Sarah Ludford

London Assembly member Caroline Pigeon, Baroness Ros Scott, Lynne Featherstone MP, and Sarah Ludford MEP were among the Lib Dems marching at London Pride this year

Ed Fordham, parliamentary campaigner for Hampstead and Kilburn Liberal Democrats, writes in this week's edition of Lib Dem News about this year's London Pride.

We have talked the talk - this year it was only right that loudly and visibly we walked the walk.

The 40th anniversary since the first pride march in 1970 is and was a special event - it is a carnival atmosphere, families, shoppers, tourists, residents, campaigners and of course today nightclub promoters and their glistening hired bodies. But it remains the visible and audible demonstration for equality regardless of sexual orientation.

The modern gay rights movement was triggered by a police raid on the Stonewall Inn, Greenwich Village, New York at 1.20am on Saturday June 28, 1969. The police raid at that time of the morning was designed to hurt, to catch people, to force an issue and it sure was successful. But the significance of what they triggered was certainly not appreciated by Detective Smythe and Deputy Inspector Pine.

It was that raid - that propelled itself, without planning, into a full riot and uprising for gay rights - led by the Gay Liberation front in 1970 - that has become the Pride march of this year. Hundreds of thousands of people have since marched and it was London's turn on Saturday 3rd July.

And how the world HAS changed - the Liberal Democrat presence in London was led by the Equalities Minister, Lynne Featherstone MP - a sound and determined campaigner for equal rights.

But we were especially proud to be joined by gay and straight campaigners Stephen Gilbert MP (St Austell and Newquay), Caroline Pidgeon (Leader of our Group on the London Assembly), Sarah Ludford (MEP for London), Brian Paddick (Mayoral candidate 2008) and Baroness Ros Scott (Party President). They were joined by a range of parliamentary campaigners and councillors including Diana Coman and Shas Sheehan and a positive phalanx of members and activists.

The briefest Google search reveals both the problems and issue we still face and the progress still to be made. Around the world most countries have bad law making as the norm. But people in glass houses should not thrown stones.

It's only 22 years since the Tory Government of Margaret Thatcher introduced the iniquitous Section 28 - sponsored by David Wilshire, the MP for Spelthorne Surrey, who only stood down in this last election. David Cameron has since apologised for that legislation, but his stance is not shared across all his party's rank and file. If you're in any doubt just recollect Chris Grayling on Bed and Breakfast owners being supported if they discriminated or Cameron's partners of choice in the European Parliament

Too often being gay is the forgotten element in immigration cases in the eyes of the law - there are many countries where gay rights are not fully recognised (India has moved a long way decriminalising colonial law against homosexuality, Poland is shuffling forwards albeit very slowly, but for example Uganda is slipping backwards - encouraged by far-right American evangelicals).

And so we have come full circle - in the Coalition, you can't rely on the Tories on these issues and it is vital that the Liberal Democrats are there - leading the debate and arguing for full equality. I have never understood the compromise that was civil partnership and am delighted that full marriage for all is now looking likely (and in case the Coalition is hesitating we are trying to get the matter debated at Conference in September).

Transgender issues still remain a major stumbling block for many areas of the law and we all still have to achieve progress on this, but for the first time I feel genuinely optimistic.

So next year will be the 41st year of the London Pride marches - I hope that we might be marching with some married LGBT couples, that those who have transgender issues will feel that the Government has taken their concerns seriously (full marks to Julian Huppert MP for his work on this in the ID cards debate), there are still some incredibly tricky conversations within certain communities in the UK on equality

So it's good, but it could be better. And this year, the Liberal Democrats were better mainly due to the astonishing project management planning of Hackney North and Stoke Newington candidate Keith Angus and his neighbour Dave Raval, candidate for Hackney South and Shoreditch - it was their float, banners, balloons, sound system, charm and leadership that set out our stall. Will you be part of it next year?