Lynne Featherstone MP visits Henrietta Barnett School

Lynne Featherstone MP with students from Henrietta Barnet SchoolLynne Featherstone MP last week visited Henrietta Barnett School in Hampstead, to speak to the current affairs society.

The Liberal Democrat MP spoke about her ministerial work over the last four years – including tackling FGM and securing equal marriage law.

The local MP also spoke about her work in and around her constituency, and her new campaign to encourage unity and community cohesion in the face of extremism.

The students then asked a number of questions – including many about women’s rights and life as an MP.

Lynne Featherstone MP commented:

“It was great to speak to the students, particularly about the consequences of the recent terror attacks in Paris and elsewhere. We spoke about the worrying and divisive use of language in this country following the attacks, and how unity – rather than division – really is the best way to respond to extremism.

“Many of them rightly raised questions about womens’ rights, and increasing female representation in parliament. While the situation for women has improved – and campaigns to end FGM and forced marriage have really taken off – there is still so much work to be done in this area.

“I really enjoyed the open discussion – the students were so bright and really understood the issues of the day – I wish them all the best for the future!”

Remembering the journey to equal marriage

Here’s a copy of an article I’ve written for Left Foot Forward on Equal Marriage – the journey to it and what comes next.

On Saturday the 29 March, I went to two fantastic weddings.

On that historic day when all love finally become equal before the law, same-sex couples were able to get married – and hundreds did!

At the second wedding I went to, which had a musical theme, a very poignant video was played before the ceremony. It showed a timeline of the steps towards securing rights for the LGBT+ community in the UK.

It included the marches in the 50’s, 60’s and 70s, the decriminalization of homosexuality and the lowering of the age of consent, and then moved on to adoption rights, civil partnerships and equal marriage.

The video also included some of the setbacks which occurred along the way. The awful Section 28 legislation was introduced by the Conservative government in 1988 and shockingly prohibited “the intentional promotion of homosexuality” by any local authority, as well as “the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”

Among other examples, this was a reminder that the journey for LGBT+ rights has not been an easy one – not without setbacks, not without opposition, and not without discrimination and oppression.

But sitting in the theatre in Alexandra Palace (where the wedding was held) surrounded by LGBT+ activists, the very happy couple and their families and friends, it was easy to see how far we have come in the UK.

Marriage is now well and truly equal – open to all couples regardless of their gender.

And that day, 29 March, was a landmark day for me too. It was a long journey, starting when I marched into the Home Office and said to my civil servants ‘’I am going to deliver same sex marriage – and I know it’s not in the Coalition agreement – but it needs doing.’

And the rest is history – literally.

One day, when I am no longer a minister, I will be able to tell the whole story of how the law came to be. But for now I can publically thank the activists, the LGBT+ community, the cross-party group of MPs, the Home Secretary, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister and others for the support they gave.

And the effect of the change in law goes beyond the ability of same sex couples to marry. The legal change has also, I hope, gone some way into changing attitudes towards homosexuality. The more progress we make on LGBT+ rights, the more equal and tolerant our society will become, as no-one is treated like a second class citizen by the law.

I hope that, as a result of equal marriage law, the young LGBT+ community do not feel that they have to keep their sexuality a secret, or try to hide it – as people in previous generations often felt they had to.

It’s heartwarming now, whenever I speak at an event, when someone (usually a young man) approaches me at the end and says ‘thank you for what you did.’ It’s emotional – I cry, he cries – and we both know that our country is a better place than it was, now that marriage is equal.

And it was of course fantastic on a personal level to recently receive awards from both Pink News and Stonewall, in recognition of the work on equal marriage.

Ben and Jerrys also said thank you by sending me an ice-cream tub with my name and picture on it – one of the most random but wonderful gifts I have received for my work in politics!

But the work certainly doesn’t stop here. While we’ve made huge progress in this country, it was a culmination of a long journey, and there is still a way to go to fully stamp out discrimination.

As we celebrate our victories in the UK we mustn’t forget those LGBT+ campaigners around the world whose situations are still desperate.

From day one of my role as a minister in the Department of International Development (DFID), strengthening the department’s LGBT+ rights strategy was one of my top priorities.

DFID’s strategy has rightly been led by local LGBT+ campaigners in each country, and they asked that we take a subtle approach.

So, respecting their wishes, that’s what I did – I raised my concerns in private with African ministers and prime ministers, and met privately with local LGBT+ groups in country.

The new strategy is about to be signed off to extend this work further. I hope that the UK’s equal marriage law, and our ongoing commitment to LGBT+ rights, will also set a good example for other countries, who are at a much earlier stage in their journeys towards equality.

Lynne Featherstone MP wins ‘Politician of the Year’ award

Lynne Featherstone MP on the pride marchHornsey and Wood Green MP Lynne Featherstone has won Stonewall’s ‘Politician of the Year’ award.

The award, which was won jointly with Lord Cashman, recognised Lynne Featherstone’s work on LGBT rights both at home and abroad.

During her first spell in the Home Office, the Liberal Democrat MP was the architect of the Equal Marriage legislation, which has since become law. In the Department for International Development, Lynne worked to improve the rights of LGBT+ communities in the developing world.

In the last two weeks, Lynne Featherstone MP has also won the Pink News award for ‘Ally of the Year’; been nominated for the Patchwork Award for ‘MP of the Year’; and been promoted to Minister of State in the Home Office.

Lynne Featherstone MP commented:

“I am so very moved to win Stonewall’s award for politician of the year.

“Bringing about positive social change is one of the best parts of being a politician. I’m so glad to have had that opportunity – and introducing same sex marriage is certainly one of the best things I’ll ever do!

“I will of course continue to champion the rights of the LGBT+ community, along with fantastic activists and organisations, such as Stonewall.”

Lynne Featherstone MP wins top Pink News Award

Lynne Featherstone MP accepts her award from Ben Cohen, Chief Executive and Founder of Pink News. Lynne Featherstone MP was last night presented with an award by Pink News, the most read gay news service in Britain.

The top award, called ‘Ally of the Year,’ was given to the Lib Dem MP in honour of her tireless work to promote LGBT rights both at home and abroad.

The MP for Hornsey and Wood Green was the architect of Equal Marriage law during her time as minister for equalities in the Home Office, and now works in the Department for International Development to push the agenda on the global stage.

Lynne Featherstone MP is also nominated for Stonewell’s ‘Politician of the Year’ award, which due to be announced next week.

Lynne Featherstone MP commented:

“I’d like to thank Pink News for giving me this award, and everyone who was at the event for the reception they gave me – it’s so heart-warming.

“Bringing about this positive social change is one of the greatest achievements of our generation, and I’m so thankful to all the organisations, politicians, civil servants and people who supported the successful campaign for Equal Marriage law from start to finish.”

One local resident tweeted:

“So pleased to be there to see my MP @lfeatherstone receive a @pinknews Award tonight for her work to bring in same-sex marriage.”

 

Lynne Featherstone MP nominated for Politician of the Year award

Lynne Featherstone MP on this year’s pride march – celebrating equal marriageLynne Featherstone MP has been nominated for Stonewall’s ‘Politician of the Year’ award.

The 25th Anniversary Awards, which will take place in the Raphael Gallery of the Victoria & Albert Museum, celebrate the outstanding contribution of individuals and groups towards equality over the past year.

In her former role as Equalities Minister, Lynne Featherstone MP was the architect of the Equal Marriage consultation and Bill – which has now become law.

Lynne Featherstone MP commented:

“It’s a huge honour to be nominated for this award – thank you very much to Stonewall! I look forward to attending the awards.

“In the UK, we have made incredible progress with equal marriage. Words can’t really describe the overwhelming joy I felt attending two beautiful wedding ceremonies on that historic day in March, when finally love became equal before the law.

“I still get very emotional when people thank me for my work on same-sex marriage. Often when I speak at an event someone, usually a young man, will approach me and say ‘thank you’ – it’s incredibly heart-warming.”

Lynne Featherstone MP shows her pride in London

Lynne Featherstone MP on the pride marchLynne Featherstone MP on Saturday took part in the annual London Pride march, to celebrate London’s LGBT+ community. She was accompanied by a large Liberal Democrat team including Lord Brian Paddick, Caroline Pidgeon (the Leader of the Lib Dem group on the London Assembly) and Lib Dem Baroness, Liz Barker.

This year’s march was the first since same-sex marriages became legal in England – under legislation that Lynne Featherstone MP introduced in her previous role as Equalities Minister (2010-12).

The local MP, who was stopped a number of times by people wanting to thank her for her work on LGBT+ issues, carried a placard underlining her pride at representing Hornsey and Wood Green.

Getting into the spirit of the event, the Lib Dem MP danced along to the music during the parade and took a number of pictures with other marchers throughout the afternoon.

Lynne Featherstone MP commented:

“I was delighted to be marching at pride yet again this year – and I certainly wasn’t going to let the weather rain on my parade!

“Pride is always such a positive and empowering event – and I was so happy to be walking with men and women who have married since the introduction of equal marriage. It is always so moving when people thank me for my involvement in bringing in the changes – it makes me feel very proud of my work and of where we are now as a country on LGBT+ issues.”