17th June 2016 Vilnius, Lithuania
Why I am – marching with Baltic Pride
This year Baltic Pride takes place in Vilnius. I am joining the Pride march to show my support and commitment to promoting and protecting rights for all.
The UK champions the rights of LGBT people. British Embassies and High Commissions around the world support LGBT rights in their respective countries in a number of ways. Sometimes that is as simple as displaying the rainbow symbol – a symbol of gay pride – on dates related to LGBT rights. Sometimes it is by joining pride marches. And sometimes it is working to encourage legislative or institutional support for LGBT rights around the world; the UK Government is funding projects focused on LGBT rights in a number of places.
Why do we support LGBT rights? Firstly, because we are strong supporters of human rights. Human rights are universal and should apply equally to all people. We are implacably opposed to all forms of discrimination. Just as we support equality based on, for example, gender, religion and ethnicity, so we should support also equality based on sexual orientation. In a tolerant society there is no room for prejudice or discrimination in any form.
Second, because acknowledging and promoting diversity benefits societies. The strongest, safest and most prosperous societies are those in which all citizens are respected and can live without fear of discrimination and where all people can play an active part in society as themselves. A number of companies in the UK have spoken out recently about the business benefits of being inclusive employers on LGBT issues. Major companies participate in the London Gay Pride March, along with all sorts of other employers, including our UK Armed Forces.
Our sympathies are with the families and friends of those affected by the shooting in Orlando. This tragic event underlines the importance of a concerted effort to tackle hatred in all forms.
Consideration of LGBT rights is now increasingly normal practice in all walks of UK life. The UK has the largest number of openly Lesbian and Gay parliamentarians in the world. There are openly Lesbian and Gay British Ambassadors serving around the world, including in Israel, Greece and Ukraine. The UK’s Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act of 2013 has made marriage of same sex couples lawful in England and Wales, while protecting and promoting religious freedom.
The UK is also one of the most progressive countries in Europe on LGBT – although we know we still have more to do. But we are not the only country in Europe to make LGBT rights part of our everyday business. Countries from Ireland to Italy have adopted legislation allowing civil partnership for Gay and Lesbian couples.
So I am joining the Baltic Pride March in Vilnius to show that supporting all human rights, including LGBT, is important for any society.