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Celebration of LGBT+ community led by Westminster’s gay Mayor

Event organised by Cllr Paul Church in 50th anniversary year of Sexual Offences Act

07 July, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya

Cllr Ian Adams with friends at the Westminster ‘LGBT Pride’

WESTMINSTER’S first openly-gay Lord Mayor raised a toast to the LGBT+ community at a special evening of celebration on the Strand.

Cllr Ian Adams, speaking at the council’s “LGBT Pride” event on Monday, said he felt fortunate to live in a generally tolerant society but acknowledged the battle for equal rights was far from over.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 which decriminalised homosexual acts for the first time in this country.

Speaking at a podium draped in a rainbow flag, the Conservative councillor said: “Let’s not forget that the community has suffered significant discrimination long after 1967. Gay and lesbian people were banned from serving in the armed forces until the year 2000. And it wasn’t until 2001 that the age of consent was lowered to 16. We have only had the civil partnership act passed 13 years ago. So things are still moving, still evolving. But over- all I think we are fortunate that we are living by and large in a country which the law makes it clear that discrimination is unacceptable and won’t be tolerated.”

Cllr Adams is preparing to lead the Pride parade on Saturday and admitted to being “very excited”, adding: “My husband Chris will be holding my hand to help keep the nerves at bay.”

He told the Westminster Extra: “Being an openly gay Lord May- or of Westminster, I really felt this was an important thing to do, both personally and for the community I belong to.

Monday’s event was organised by the council’s lead member for LGBT+ services Cllr Paul Church. Another guest was for- mer humanitarian aid worker James Brown, who recently went to do field work in Tanzania for the European Commission. He told The Extra: “It was a very difficult environment to work in. People there are very conservative about their views, they really hold on to traditional values. So being a gay person in that environment was tough.”

He recalled switching on a gay dating app in Tanzania, and found the closest people using it were based in Nairobi, Kenya. “People were genuinely that afraid to play any part of it,” he said.

Also at the event were a group of students from City of Westminster College who had created a series of videos exploring what it was like to “come out”. One film listed countries where homosexuality was still considered a crime.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 which decriminalised homosexual acts for the first time in this country.

Harry Silver, 16, from the college, said: “It is really good to have a country and a city which allows diversity to show. Your sexuality shouldn’t be important, people should judge you by you. I think today shows that lots of very important and respected people are actually members of the LGBT community. It’s really good that we have a Lord Mayor who is actually representing people from that community, because it is a normal thing.”

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