I offer my sincerest condolences to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives during the terrible attacks that took place in Orlando on June 12th. Mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, activists and colleagues around the world have been shaken by the violence and hatred that led to the murder of 49 innocent people.
LGBTI friendly bars and clubs are places for people of all genders, ethnicities and sexualities, but they are also often places of sanctuary. The community of Orlando were tragically massacred where they should have felt safest.This terrible attack serves as a bleak reminder that LGBTI people still experience high levels of discrimination and abuse, both here at home and around the world.
Vigils and events taking place throughout the UK and across the globe have helped to spread the message that love and respect will always win-out over hatred and division. The international community stands in solidarity with the people of Orlando at this distressing time.
The European Union has set an exemplary standard for LGBTI protections, implementing anti-discrimination laws, recognising same-sex marriage and funding activism and research to combat hate crime. I am a member of the European parliamentary Committee on Gender Equality and I also belong to a cross-party LGBTI Intergroup that works closely with ILGA to develop policy recommendations, exchange best practice, educate internally within the EU institutions as well as in society, and to scrutinise draft reports and legislation in order to strengthen gender equality at EU level as well as in other countries.
The Labour party has been at the forefront of UK policy for LGBTI people, introducing the Equality Act, achieving an equal age of consent and giving LGBTI people the legal right to adopt children. But it is clear we must all work harder to promote respect and equality for people of all gender identities and sexual orientations around the world to prevent such tragic acts of terror taking place in the future.