Tim Farron welcomes LGBT History Month

February is LGBT History Month, a chance to celebrate those campaigners who have made such a  difference for LGBT rights and a chance to remember all those who suffered as a result of repressive attitudes and laws. When I was growing up, I was heartbroken to hear accounts of long-term partners being frozen out of hospital visiting or funeral arrangements by family members who didn’t recognise their relationship. You could live with someone for decades and have no rights when they were ill or when they died.

It looks as though the US may be about to enter a period when these hard-won rights are cast aside and we’ll have new examples of the effects of harsh and cruel intolerance. There are numerous examples of repressive regimes where LGBT people face death or imprisonment. In this country, hate crime is on the increase. The road to equality across the world is still being built and it’s important that we all do our bit to help.

I am constantly awestruck at the courage of some of my friends, who took risks when same sex sexual activity was still illegal (officially until 1980 in Scotland) to support others and to lay the foundations for the much more welcoming environment we have today. Scotland is one of the best places in the world to be LGBT these days and it’s due to people like my friend Gregan Crawford, who is now Edinburgh Lib Dems’ Master of All Things Connect (seriously, he makes the best delivery runs EVER).

Anyway, here is his account of an International Gay Rights Congress which took place in Edinburgh in 1974 which ended up with 2000 people marching on the BBC:

It was an extremely powerful influence on gay people in Edinburgh, just having the event here. It didn’t get very much publicity at the time; the major media ignored it to begin with, and we had 2,000 people from all over the world here! So we decided we were going to do something that they couldn’t ignore. This was all taking place at the Edinburgh University Teviot Place Union. There was a big banner that had been draped along the front of the speaker’s area and this was taken down and we marched down the Bridges, first of all to the Scotsman offices. And then we marched on to the BBC in Queen Street. We forced the BBC Scotland guy, John Gray, to come out and talk to us.… So this was actually, in a way, a Pride march 21 years before the first Pride march. In its way it was the first gay march.

I was the official photographer for Gay News for this event – and I was running down the far side of the Bridges to make sure I got a good vantage point. I remember a policewoman talking into her radio saying ‘Do you know anything about a march?’ It took people completely by surprise and it caused quite a bit of consternation. I do know of people from Edinburgh who were on the march who were seen by friends from buses and things and they effectively came out this way. It was quite fun. You just got caught up in the whole euphoria of the event.

Tim Farron welcomed the start of LGBT History Month:

LGBT History Month is a celebration of the LGBT community and a recognition of the countless contributions of campaigners who have been drivers of change in fighting prejudice and hate in all its forms.

This year also marks an important milestone in gay British History, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalization of male homosexuality. The LGBT movement has made great progress in the last few decades but we should never become complacent in tackling discrimination and intolerance.

I am proud to lead a party that is accepting of anyone, regardless of their race, faith, gender, background or sexual orientation. The Liberal Democrats will always stand with the community in building and safeguarding a society that is open, tolerant and united.

Thank you to everyone involved in organising this year’s celebrations and I wish you all an enjoyable month ahead.

If you have an LGBT hero like Gregan you want to celebrate this month, please tell us about them in the usual way.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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