The General Election: Tim Farron leader of the Liberal Democrats asks for your vote

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Why vote Liberal Democrat by Tim Farron

One of my party’s proudest achievements in Government was legalising gay marriage. In politics, it is not very often that you get to make the sorts of decisions that bring that much happiness to that many people. Myself and my colleagues delivered something we believed to be truly historic both to the UK and as a signal to the world. The announcement almost a year and a half later that America voted to do the same was something truly momentous.

However, I recognise it would be naïve to say that we have reached a place of equality. The recent reports from Chechnya are truly horrifying, and represent an extreme manifestation of increasing homophobic brutality and intolerance in Putin’s Russia. The crimes are barbaric and I urge the Government to use every possibly opportunity to raise this with the Russian government, as well as in the UN and other international bodies.

As a long-time supporter of Amnesty International I believe human rights are inalienable and something we must protect and extend throughout the world. The UK must work with those who share our values to stop the mindless targeting of the LGBT community, which is still prevalent in too many countries across the world. Only through defending universal human rights will we ever hope to achieve a world in which every person can live, work and flourish without discrimination.

The Liberal Democrats will always seek opportunities to work with others to deliver equality globally because we recognise that working in partnerships can be the best of way of delivering liberal tolerant open policies. Indeed, the EU has always been a powerful force in helping to deliver this agenda, in the past Liberal Democrat MEPs have worked with the EU to urge action on anti-homosexual laws introduced in Uganda.

However, I recognise that in the UK we still have a lot of work to do to ensure equality. As a party, we were founded on the principles of equality and inclusiveness and a Liberal Democrat government would ensure this extended to the NHS. The Liberal Democrats have been campaigning for the end of the blanket ban on blood donation since 2006. In Coalition in 2011 we won a partial victory which removed the restriction on gay men – but only if they had been celibate for 12 months. Frankly it’s a total embarrassment to parliament; the ban is scientifically and socially outdated, deeply and unjustly stigmatising, and urgently needs to change. Last year I tabled a bill that would end the ban; it has not become law and we will keep campaigning on this out of date injustice until its reversed.

We have also sought to correct mistakes of the past. Thousands of gay and bisexual men convicted of now-abolished sexual offences have been posthumously pardoned thanks to Liberal Democrat pressure. And my colleague in the Lords, John Sharkey, Private Member’s Bill was instrumental in securing a pardon for Alan Turing.

The Liberal Democrats will always seek to speak for those who do not have a voice because we believe equality a fundamental part of society. In the cases above, although it came too late for those convicted, we hope we have given the friends and relatives of the thousands of people who suffered under this unfair and discriminatory law some comfort.

Ultimately tolerance and acceptance come from education and as a party, we have long campaigned to make sex education compulsory in all schools. This was repeatedly blocked by the Conservatives during the Coalition government. The Government has finally capitulated thanks to pressure both internally and externally. Our children must have access to good sexual health and relationship education and give parents the help and support they need to talk to their children about this issue.

Home and abroad we must also protect those who face intolerance, and our manifesto contains a commitment to stop the deportation of people to countries where their sexual orientation or gender identification means that they risk imprisonment, torture, or execution.

As a party we are always open to hearing from anyone who can offer us information to help change unjust policies or if there is an area you think we should be talking about that we’re not. Please do reach out, we are here to present your views and not the other way around!

David Robson for Labour and Baga Chipz for the Conservatives tell us why you should support their respective parties here. The Green Party did not return our request for a contribution.

Remember to cast your vote in the General Election on 8 June

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