Over 150 people attended, including cabinet ministers, campaign groups, organisers of Pride events from across the country, businesses, charities, cross-party MPs and representatives of different faith groups.
As well as marking the recent change in law, the reception was an opportunity to discuss other ongoing areas and challenges for the LGBT community.
It’s lovely to be back here in this sunny garden, a year on from the last time we had this party. Now, some things haven’t changed over that year. Last year, we were looking forward to an amazing summer of sport at the Olympics, where we won all those gold medals and cast the world before us. And this year: Andy Murray, the Ashes, Justin Rose. There have been some amazing sporting successes.
But something really important has changed in our country, and that is at the end of a long, tortuous parliamentary process, the Queen has signed the equal marriage bill, and that is something we can all be very proud of.
And I want to thank all of you for the support that you’ve given, and for the pressure that you’ve kept up, for this really, really important change. As I said on that radio programme after the bill was passed, that I think of young children growing up at school, who might be uncertain about their sexuality, knowing that now, in the highest place in the land – in Parliament – we’ve passed this law that says that marriage is for you, whether you’re gay or whether you’re straight. And I think that is so important to young people growing up.
But it’s also really important to parents. A mum came up to me the other day in the street in my constituency and said, ‘Why I’m so pleased about this is that I’ve got a straight son and a gay daughter, and I now know I’m going to be able to go to both of their weddings, and that makes me really happy.’
So, I think it’s a great change. I want to thank you for the support that you all gave and there are some people I really want to single out and thank.
I want to thank the Out4Marriage campaign – Mike, James, and Ben, you did a brilliant job. I want to thank Chris from Lobby A Lord; the lord lobbying was very effective. I thank the gay men’s choir that sung outside the House of Lords. James, Connor and the Coalition for Equal Marriage. Peter Tatchell, who has lobbied the government for 21 years for this change. Ben Summerskill and all those at Stonewall have done a fantastic job. Dan Large and Nick Herbert, who did so much in Parliament to support the bill, and MPs and peers from right across the political spectrum.
There were some fantastic speeches. I remember listening to Mike Freer’s speech in the House of Commons and being really moved by what he said. And I also think that Lord Jenkin of Roding – that wonderful speech about the character of love, which marriage reflects: faithful, stable, tough, unselfish and unconditional. And I thought the great thing about it was that we didn’t just win the vote but actually we won the argument, and I think that’s so important.
I want to thank the ministers as well. I think Maria Miller and her team did an absolutely fantastic job, and Tina in the House of Lords. Helen Grant in the House of Commons, the bill team – I’ve met a lot of the bill team. I’ve told the bill team I’m now going to reassign them because, of course, all over the world people would have been watching this piece of legislation and we’ve set something, I think, of an example of how to pass good legislation in good time. Many other countries are going to want to copy this. And, as you know, I talk about the global race, about how we’ve got to export more and sell more so I’m going to export the bill team. I think they can be part of this global race and take it around the world.
And I’m personally proud of this. I think I’m probably the only Conservative prime minister who’s taken this step, but I’m very proud to have taken it. I think it’s a really good step, and thank you for helping me to stick with the plan and get it done so quickly.
Only other thing I wanted to say is that I know that the job isn’t yet fully done. It is something to celebrate that Britain is now – and it’s official – the best place to be gay, lesbian or transgender anywhere in Europe. That is a great achievement. That’s not my measure; that is an internationally recognised measure. But there’s still a lot more work to be done.
There’s a lot more work to be done as Britain in the Commonwealth, talking to our Commonwealth partners about decriminalising homosexuality in various countries. There’s a lot of work to be done on homophobic bullying in schools, which is still a scourge in our country. There’s a lot of work to be done in terms of hate crimes and how we stop and stamp that out in our society. So there’s still work to be done, but I hope we can agree we’ve taken a really important step forward.
And it was only a year ago that I stood in this garden and I made a promise – and I know you all think politicians don’t keep their promises, well we kept this one. One year on, the bill passed.
Have a lovely day, thank you for coming. Thanks for all those who put in so much work. It’s been a real pleasure to work with you and to deliver this landmark social change for our country, which to me still comes back to the simple word of commitment.
I think society is stronger when people commit to each other. And as I said at that party conference speech a few years back: that commitment counts whether it’s between a man and a woman, or a man and a man, and a woman and a woman. And those now aren’t just words in a conference speech, it’s an Act of Parliament, and we can all be proud of that.