United Kingdom first foreign government to march in Atlanta Pride parade

British Consul General Jeremy Pilmore-Bedford (British Consulate photo)

As the British Consul General in Atlanta, I’m honoured the Consulate is making history as the first foreign government to participate in the Atlanta Pride Parade this year.

We are joining almost 200 different organisations on Sunday, Oct. 12, to show our support because it is important to do so. The British government is committed to protecting and promoting
human rights. Gay rights are human rights.

As my Prime Minister said, “The introduction of same-sex civil marriage says something about the sort of country we are. It says we are a country that will continue to honour its proud traditions of respect, tolerance and equal worth. It also sends a powerful message to young people growing up who are uncertain about their sexuality. It clearly says ‘you are equal’ whether straight or gay.”

Several organisations now rank the UK as the best place in Europe to be gay. Sadly, this has not always been the case. This year marks the 60th anniversary of the death of Alan Turing, the father of modern computing, whose incredible code-breaking efforts helped win World War II. Despite his invaluable contribution to the war effort, he was persecuted for
his sexuality, along with thousands of others whose stories are less well known.

However, the UK has come a long way in my lifetime towards more equality, from decriminalizing homosexuality in the ‘60s, to the royal pardon of Alan Turing in 2013. Same-sex marriage is now legal in England and Wales, and Scotland will start recognising same sex marriages later this year.

Still, there are 70 countries that criminalises being gay, and in seven of them it is punishable by death. I have served in several countries where the gay community is forced underground and to live in fear or to flee their home.

I have seen firsthand the corrosive effect that bigotry and hatred can have on society. So even as we celebrate back at home, let’s remember those who have to live under very different
circumstances. And let us continue to clear the road ahead for more progress around the world.

A hundred years from now, the institution of same-sex marriage will seem as inevitable and natural as it today feels essential and hardwon. Nearly 70 percent of all Britons support gay
marriage today. The figure rises to 80 percent of 18-34 year olds. I predict we will see these numbers of support increase each year and around the world. This evolution of equality is what we celebrate at Atlanta’s Pride Parade.

I am pleased to say that the British Consul General in Atlanta is not alone in celebrating Pride. My colleagues in Houston have already participated in their city’s pride parade, and this will be the second year for the British Embassy in Washington, D.C. and our Consulate in New York City. I’m proud to see my country celebrating this historic milestone in Britain and abroad.

This year, the Advocate, an American LGBT-interest magazine, listed Atlanta as the fifth most LGBT-friendly city in America. I’m glad to see so many large companies participating in Atlanta’s Pride Parade, including Delta, The Coca-Cola Company, Atlanta MINI dealers, and InterContinental Hotels Group.

We are all stronger and richer for embracing difference, whether at home or in the workplace. Many congratulations to those of you getting married at home in the U.K. or abroad. Cheers!