Pride at our progress but long way to go

NATS receives an MoD award

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Today, members of the LGBT community across Portsmouth will gather together for the second annual Portsmouth Pride.

Last year I went along with my children. We all really enjoyed being part of this fantastic celebration of our community’s diversity.

It was also an opportunity to reflect upon why we all still need Pride to combat discrimination, prejudice and hatred.

The recent atrocities in Orlando have reminded me of this once again. While we’re all still in shock from this sickening attack, I am heartened to see how people around the world have united in the face of tragedy. The response on social media and the crowds that gathered in defiance against this attack, show what the vast majority of us here in Britain hold dear.

The importance of our freedom, without hate or prejudice, to live and love in the way we choose.

This weekend many people will be remembering the victims of the devastating attack, their families and those who loved them, as they attend our celebration here in Portsmouth. This is our chance to come together, for our community to show a united front against discrimination, while celebrating the huge progress we have made towards delivering greater equality. With this in mind there is almost nothing that would keep me from joining this year’s Pride event. Almost nothing! I won’t be there because I will be at the wedding of one of my team, Ben.

This weekend Ben will be joining over 15,000 same-sex couples who have come together to make a lasting commitment to share their lives together when he marries his partner, Francis.

A true celebration of the freedom to love whoever we choose.

Last month, my friend and colleague Nicky Morgan, secretary of state and minister for women and equalities, returned from the G7 Education Ministers summit. Here, surrounded by international education leaders, she raised the issue of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying within schools.

This has not previously been discussed at such an event, and is a great example of how on a global stage the UK are seen as a leading force in the fight for LGBT equality.

Words are important but we know that they need concrete backing. That is why in March this year we announced a further £1m to build upon our previous £2m programme to prevent and tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying in schools.

Last year I visited Horndean Technology College, a Stonewall Champion School, and I was so proud to see the inspirational work to promote equality taking place in one of our fantastic local schools.

The LGBT agenda is evolving fast and, together with the support of the nation, our government will continue working hard to make positive changes for the LGBT community.

We have come a long way already but we know there is more still to be done to achieve our ultimate goal of eliminating LGBT inequality for good, and I am proud to be at the forefront of this government agenda.

I hope everyone has a fantastic day, and as a proud supporter of LGBT rights from across the harbour in Gosport, I will be there in spirit and looking forward to walking alongside you at Portsmouth Pride next year!