One of the first major CEOs to come out as gay has called on politicians and big businesses to continue the fight for LGBT inclusivity as England and Wales mark 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.
Writing for the Telegraph, the former chief of BP Lord John Browne has recounted what the 1967 Sexual Offences Act meant for him and how we can continue moving forward in the right direction to promote LGBT equality.
Lord Browne, who is a crossbench peer, came out as gay in 2007 and promptly resigned from his senior position at BP after revelations surrounding his sexuality came to light.
Since that point, Lord Browne has been a pioneer for LGBT rights as he tackled the homophobia and discrimination that the community faces.
In the op-ed, Lord Browne wrote that while the progress that has been made since 1967 is “extraordinary” it is still “incomplete and fragile”.
Lord Browne wrote: “The 50th anniversary of the passage of the 1967 Act comes at a time when the institutions and values that made such progress possible are increasingly vulnerable.
“Advances in LGBT rights did not happen in isolation. They were part of a broader trend over several decades, towards first the acceptance and then the inclusion of minorities from all segments of society.
“But that trend is at risk of stalling. Across western democracies, many people feel that their way of life and their standard of living are under threat.”
The 69-year-old, who worked with BP for 12 years, went on to explain that the rise in populism being seen across the world means that some “inclusive values that have underpinned decades of social progress” face rejection.
Lord Browne went on to stress that the way to fight rejection is to avoid “complacency” which allows “vulnerability” to grow.
He explained: “The history of the 20th century suggests that equality and inclusion are not achievements to be enjoyed, but standards that must be defended.
“Society can go backwards as well as forwards, particularly when the social and political environment is in flux.”
As a “gay man and business leader” Lord Browne believes there are three actions which must be taken by the LGBT community to ensure that equality is maintained.
Firstly, he states that the “barriers to inclusion” must be broken down through education in schools, private businesses and public sector work places.
“I did not have an openly gay role model, nor did I have the advantage of looking to another chief executive for precedent,” Lord Browne said. “Without a gay role model, I failed to be one for others.”
As well as education, Lord Browne writes the next step to supporting equal rights is to make wider society aware of the positive financial impact that inclusion has.
He said: “People are happier, more productive, and make more money for their company when they are free to be themselves.”
Lorde Browne added that another path of action is to continue lobbying political powers to fight for LGBT inclusion, a point that is particularly important in light of the Conservative and DUP deal, he said.
“Leaders need to make an uncompromising commitment to inclusion,” he said. “If the need for inclusion is not taken seriously by those at the top, then it will not survive.”
Lord Browne finished the piece by reflecting on a piece of advice that his mother, who survived Auschwitz, gave him.
“My mother used to warn me that when the going gets tough, minorities are always hurt by the majority.
“Her words were born from her own extreme experience, but they remain relevant today.
“As we celebrate 50 years of progress for LGBT people, it is essential to remember that, even in the most advanced societies, constant vigilance is needed,” he concluded.