I went to the launch last night of ParliOut – a new group formed to support LGB&T people in the Houses of Parliament – both Members and staff.
This group will be an invaluable source of support to all LGB&T people in the Palace of Westminster and hopefully, it will also encourage other employers to follow this example.
It is very important that Parliament has out LGB&T members and also sends out the important message that being LGB&T is not a bar to participating in civil society and public life.
The Government also needs to do more to encourage more LGB&T citizens to particpate and this week we will be publishing the findings of research we have carried out into the ‘Experiences of and Barriers to Participation in public and political life for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people’.
One of the key findings, is that a major barrier to particpation, is the fear of being outed by the media!
As people may have seen over the weekend, a case in point, Deputy Speaker, Nigel Evans came out at the age of 53 – to coincide with the launch of ParliOut. But for an MP in the Conservative Party – this was not always acceptable – now that has genuinely changed. In fact – the Conservative Party has moved on beyond all recognition on LGB&T matters – not just because of the thirteen out gay MPs – but in a genuine move away from the past and a very open mind in terms of moving forward on this agenda.
Back to the do – Mr Speaker, John Bercow, kindly hosted the evening in his rooms which was great – as he has been an outstanding supporter of equal rights himself. Also – tribute was paid to Iain Corby who with others has brought ParliOut into existence. Chris Bryant, an out Labour MP who earlier this year had the first civil partnership to be carried out in Parliament also spoke.
But the focus and speech of the evening was Deputy Speaker, Nigel Evans – who gave a most powerful and moving speech about his personal journey – through to today – when he at last can be himself.