British PM Tony Blair to Step Down After a Decade in Power

British Prime Minister Tony Blair today announced he’ll be stepping down as of June 27th. Blair made the announcement at the Trimdon Labour Club in his constituency of Sedgefield in northern England. In his farewell speech, Blair made note, among other things, of his achievements in gay rights.

Tony_blairWhile Tony Blair’s statement that “people are today open-minded about race and sexuality” is a stretch in most quarters, there’s no doubt that Britain has made greater strides in that arena than we have in the United States in the past decade.

Said Blair: “Think about the culture of Britain in 2007. I don’t just mean our arts that are thriving. I mean our values – the minimum wage, paid holidays as a right, amongst the best maternity pay and leave in Europe, equality for gay people.”

We’ll look forward to the day that comes out of the mouth of an American leader.

British gay activist Peter Tatchell praised Blair’s record, according to UK Gay News: “During Tony Blair’s Prime Ministership, anti-gay laws that had existed for decades, or even centuries, were repealed. Nearly all homophobic legislation was removed from the statute books in less than a decade – a truly breath-taking pace of reform that has greatly improved the lives of lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Congratulations and thanks to the Labour government – and to MPs from all parties who backed gay law reform.”

Tatchell also noted that Blair “squandered many opportunities” and reminded that many of Blair’s ‘achievements’ (age of consent laws, gays in the military, end to workplace discrimination) came only after pressure from the European Court of Human Rights and European Union directives.

Certain current Labour Party policies still need to be tackled, said Tatchell: “[Labour] support the ban on same-sex marriage, deport gay asylum seekers, and refuse to prohibit incitement to homophobic hatred. The battle for queer equality isn’t finished yet. We still have a way to go.”

Tony Blair’s resignation speech, in two parts.

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