Friends! Welcome and thank you all for being here.
We in Lambeth have a fine tradition of standing together; and this rainbow crossing, the first of its kind to be permanently installed in this country, is a statement of Lambeth council’s strong and lasting commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion.
Lambeth has the highest proportion of LGBT+ people of anywhere in the UK. And it should not need to be said, but let me leave no doubt: we are proud of our borough’s LGBT+ heritage, we are proud of the LGBT+ contribution to our community, and most of all, we are proud to stand alongside LGBT+ people, not just in Lambeth, but across the world.
Rainbow crossings can be found in Sydney, Vancouver, San Francisco, Paris and now our very own Herne Hill. A simple gesture, such crossings help make visible what has always been there but not always acknowledged.
And although we have come a long way, these gains cannot be taken for granted. Shockingly, 97% of LGBT+ students still regularly hear the homophobic language at school. 65% have experienced homophobic bullying. Hate crime is again on the rise, and in recent months we have seen several high-profile incidents, including two men beaten up on the Southbank for holding hands.
It is gut-wrenching, that LGBT+ people continue to face discrimination and violence, simply going about their daily lives. But that’s why initiatives such as this are so important: they help normalise what has always been normal and send a clear message that we will not let bigotry go unchallenged.
The colours of the rainbow flag stand for life, healing, sunlight, nature, harmony and spirit. They have come to represent LGBT+ pride, but are universal in their meaning. LGBT+ values are all our values. And I am proud to have them permanently imprinted on our streets.
Lambeth is one of the most unique communities in the world. Almost nowhere else can you find such rich diversity. No matter who you are, no matter where you come from, you can find a home here. Trust me. It’s what I did. And it is a rare thing. We must continue to celebrate it and continue to celebrate each other because that is what gives us our strength.
So to the LGBT+ community and to all others facing discrimination and bigotry - Lambeth stands with you. We stand as one.