Peter Tatchell credits local work in Places like Plymouth pivotal in the struggle for equality
A HUMAN Rights campaigner has said that the local work done in places like Plymouth has been pivotal in the struggle for equality.
Peter Tatchell, speaking as a guest lecturer at Peninsula Arts at Plymouth University, credited the changes to legalise homosexuality to local people.
In his lecture Queer Britain: The struggle for LGBT Human Rights 1958-2012, he also spoke about the importance of the European Court of Human Rights in advancing the movement for equality.
The high-profile campaigner was in the city ahead of the launch of this summer's Respect festival.
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He said: "The real heroes and heroines are from the lesser known campaign groups – grassroots people engaging with local councils and local MPs. "The local work done by people in places like Plymouth has been absolutely pivotal in the struggle for equality."
Mr Tatchell has campaigned for human rights since 1967, when he was 15.
Since 1969 the struggle for gay freedom began to increasingly become his focus.
Mr Tatchell was part of the direct action group OutRage! who, in 1998, interrupted the Archbishop of Canterbury's Easter Sermon in Canterbury Cathedral condemning his advocacy of discrimination against lesbians and gay men.
During his lecture, he said: "Up until 1999 Britain had the largest number of homophobic laws of any country on earth.
"In 1999 things began to change when cases began to go to the European Court of Human Rights.
"The Labour government had kicked the issues into the long grass, but they were bound by convention to equalise the law.
"Only since 2003 have we had a penal code that does not stereotype on gender or sexual orientation."
He also spoke about the importance of equality, and said he fully supported making civil partnerships legal for heterosexual couples.
"This cumulative collective effort has brought us to where we are today and much in thanks to our straight friends and allies who have worked with us," Mr Tatchell said.
"In the 1980s straight MPs fought for us. If they hadn't asked the questions we would have never known about the hundreds of LGBT people forced out the Armed Forces and gay people being arrested by the police."
Mr Tatchell also questioned the Equal Marriage Bill, which was passed in The House of Commons in February, and said it was a worry that there would be separate legislation for gay couples.
He said it would be better and easier to repeal parts of existing legislation that prevent gay marriage.
"We have the 1949 Marriage Act," Mr Tatchell told the audience. "If you believe in equality that is what we should have, not separate legislation.
"We are going to end up with separate laws – we have always said separate is not equal."
He closed his lecture by adding: "Don't accept the world as it is. Dream about what the world could be – then help make it happen."