Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has spoken out in a parliamentary debate on Pride Month, recognising in Parliament the progress made on equality and the Pride events being held in the Northern Isles.
Speaking in the House, Mr Carmichael said:
“All of us who are in public life have a responsibility to understand that our words always have consequences. There is a responsibility on us all to send a clear message that nobody in this country should feel constrained in saying who they are or what they are.
“We have made significant progress over the years. I was here and led for my party on the creation of civil partnerships and then on the creation of equal marriage. I was absolutely delighted to see just a few weeks ago so many Facebook posts from friends of mine who are gay men and have given blood for the first time [following the repeal of a ban]. That is in many ways a small and mundane part of everything, but it sends a genuine message of inclusion. To exclude people from making that kind of contribution to their community on the basis of their sexuality was a wrong that was overdue for righting, and I am delighted that it has been done.
“Of course, there is still more we can do. I have to mention the proposals coming from the Hungarian Government that would create their own version of Section 28. I wish they would learn from the experience of this country of the effect it had, especially on vulnerable people who, as a consequence of that law, did not feel that they were able to be open about their sexuality.
“To use someone’s sexuality against them for a political purpose has to be just about as low as it is possible to go. I remember Albert Lutuli saying that apartheid was the only absolute tyranny, because it discriminated against people for something they had absolutely no power to change, which was the colour of their skin. For all of us, our sexuality is something with which we are born: it is not a choice.”
Mr Carmichael concluded by reflecting on Pride events in the isles:
“I want to place on record a small piece of Pride history, which is that last weekend, we had the most northerly Pride yet in the United Kingdom when we had the Pride festival in Orkney. It was a joyous occasion – to see so many Orcadians out there, talking about their pride in who they are, was a truly remarkable moment. Walking around Kirkwall, seeing so many shops with Pride flags in their window, was a tremendous signal that everybody was valued as part of our community.
“I look forward to having the same “first” again next year, because we will have the new “most northerly Pride” when Shetland Pride is celebrated next June. A tremendous amount of planning is already going into that, and I commend those who are responsible both for Orkney Pride last weekend and for the planning that is going into Shetland Pride for everything they are doing to send a signal that in every community, right across the country, the right of individuals to be included on their own terms is inalienable. It is something that we should celebrate, and something that we do, in fact, celebrate here today.”