It's an exciting time to be elected Chairman of LGBT+ Conservatives. It's even more exciting for me, as this is the second time you've trusted me with this role!
My last tenure was pretty exciting, and we achieved a lot together. We formalised our constitution, changed our name, affiliated to the Conservative Party, launched the Candidates' Fund, held our first conference, and generally got serious about being a Conservative voice in the LGBT+ community and an LGBT+ voice in the Conservative Party.
Huge thanks are due to Matthew Green our previous Chairman (who stood down mid-year to take up a role as a Westminster City Councillor), and to John Cope who took over from Matthew as Interim Chairman. Also to all of our National Executive and General Council for their work last year. In particular, I pay tribute to Craig Smith who transformed our pride programme and persuaded so many Associations to take part and to Charley Jarrett who finishes are run of 5 years on General Council.
The coming year will bring some significant challenges. I want us to reconnect with you our members and supporters. I'd like our Annual Report to return, to send you more updates on our work, and to increase our programme of events. With two great people as Vice-Chairman Events (Richard Salt) and Vice-Chairman Communications (Elena Bunbury), I know that's going to be possible! I'm also keen for us to double-down on Candidates' Fund fundraising and with our new Vice-Chairman Candidates' Fund (Scott Seaman Digby Collins) I know our war chest will be ready for an election.
It's not all admin though. We've come a long way towards equality in the UK, but there's definitely still work to be done.
In Northern Ireland, we know we need to continue to push for marriage equality.
We know that health inequality is still a major concern for many LGBT+ people and in particular, the access lesbian and bisexual women have to vital services, health provision for trans people, and the provision of PreP.
We know that the work on the Gender Recognition Act is still to be completed, and I am grateful to those of you who have already assisted in this process.
It seems to be a popular taunt on social media that the Conservative Party has done nothing for LGBT+ people. They rightly point to the shameful Section 28, something Conservative Prime Ministers have apologised for.
We shouldn't let this blight from the past diminish the progress that Conservative and Conservative-led governments have made in modern times.
We also shouldn't our achievements be constrained to just delivering same-sex marriage in the annals of history.
The party that elected more out MPs than any other at the last election has also delivered on the Turing Pardon and made it possible for gay men with historic criminal records for consensual gay sex to apply to have these records deleted
We are also the party that has delivered on harsher penalties for hate crimes. We’ve ensured people who murder transgender people in hate crime attacks now face life sentences.
We've delivered on tackling homophobia in schools and sport. We invested £2 million in schools to help them tackle homophobic bullying and launched a Sports Charter to stamp out homophobia and transphobia in sport. Recently we were able to deliver on legislation to ensure age-appropriate relationship education in schools.
We've delivered on health improvements and gay and bisexual men and now routinely offered the HPV vaccine. We've also appointed the first National Adviser for LGBT Health, and are tackling ways to ban "conversion therapy."
We launched a national LGBT survey, which saw a massive 108,000 respond and used the results to produce a National LGBT Action Plan, steered by the first National LGBT Advisory Panel.
Lastly, we have taken a role on the international stage to promote our values of equality. The UK has set up a new funding mechanism – UK AID Connect – to promote LGBT inclusion and through this, we are making £12 million available over 4 years for a consortium of diverse organisations – civil society, think tanks and private sector organisations – to work on LGBT inclusion.
We've already achieved a lot, and there is a lot more still to do. With your support, we can ensure the Conservative Party remains a part of equality.