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Home Secretary Amber Rudd celebrates Pride in London

Home Secretary Amber Rudd writes for PinkNews as Pride in London takes place.

Today, thousands of people will descend upon London to celebrate Pride.

Each year the festival welcomes and celebrates people from all backgrounds, races, faiths and sexualities. But now it is more important than ever to recognise Pride, because 2017 marks a major breakthrough in LGBT+ rights with the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.

The momentous changes to the law in 1967 started the journey towards equality which has continued into this decade with equal marriage.

Since I was appointed as Home Secretary last year I have been conscious there is still much more cross-Government work to do to promote equality in all areas of society and counter hate crime against the LGBT+ community.

The work towards equality was highlighted last week with a storyline in EastEnders about a gay character who loses his job because he failed to disclose he has a criminal record.

This was for an historic conviction for gross indecency dating back to 1960s before the landmark legislation came into effect.

During the programme the character was supported by a younger gay character who told him about the Home Office’s Disregard scheme.

It means people convicted of historic consensual gay sex offences can apply to have their criminal record disregarded. And now under the Police and Crime Act 2016, if the applicant is successful they are automatically pardoned as well.

The storyline will ring true for many people and really brings home the progress we have made – prompted by many years of campaigning by the LGBT+ community.

I am proud to be part of the Government that made equal marriage a reality set in law and I was honoured to have voted for it.

But as much as there is to celebrate, as many people will know, we still have a long way to go. One person experiencing hate crime is one too many. That is why last year I launched my Hate Crime Action Plan which focuses on preventing hate crime, responding to it in our communities, increasing its reporting, improving support for victims and building our understanding.

We have also awarded more than £300,000 in funding as part of a £900,000 three-year scheme to tackle hate crime, including LGBT+ charities. These charities, Galop and Stop Hate UK, are excellent examples of the support available to people affected by this terrible crime.

Tackling discrimination means setting an example. I am also proud to be leading a department which features in Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers list and is recognised as a Star Performer after reaching the top 10 several times in recent years. And the Home Office has one of the longest standing networks in Government dedicated for LGBT+ staff which works to provide a safe environment for employees to meet, support each other and socialise.

The LGBT+ community’s journey from prejudice to being able to live in a society which embraces diversity is rightly being recognised this year and never more so than this weekend. Events across the county have been taking place over the summer to mark Pride, from our biggest cities to rural market towns and villages.

I hope PinkNews readers all across the country have a fantastic Pride.

Amber Rudd is the Home Secretary.

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