Gay Humanist becomes a Peer

Gay Humanist becomes a Peer

It started with a kiss that outraged the nation …

Michael Cashman CBE – a patron of the UK’s Pink Triangle Trust, Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society, former Labour MEP, former President of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on LGBT issues, and one-time British soap actor – has been awarded a peerage.

Cashman, pictured above, left, with his partner Paul Cottingham, was one of a number of working peers appointed last week, and will add to the House of Lord’s current membership of 770.

Having served as a Labour MEP for 15 years, the 63-year-old officially stepped down at this year’s European Parliament election, having served his Midlands European constituency from 1999 to 2014.

Cashman said his appointment to the Lords was an “honour” and that he realised it was an “enormous responsibility” too.

It’s a huge and humbling honour. I just wish my old Mum and Dad were alive to witness it. I will take this enormous responsibility with me in everything that I do.

He added:

It’s a huge opportunity to speak out about the things that I’m passionate about: equality, human rights, inhumanity, and international development.

In 1986, Cashman joined the regular cast of the BBC’s brand-new soap opera, EastEnders, his role in the soap seeing him play an openly gay character, Colin Russell — a part he is still probably best remembered for.

Today, gay characters in soap operas and dramas in general are much more plentiful but, back in the mid-eighties, they were rare to almost non-existent.

Cashman holds the distinction of performing the first same-sex kiss in a soap opera, an event that — at a time characterised by a climate of homophobic intolerance and right-wing bigotry – encouraged in no small part to the late Margaret Thatcher and the Conservative Party government’s anti-gay nastiness, typified by its reprehensible Section 28 — led to tabloid headlines such as the Sun‘s “EastBenders!” and the daily Star’s “Filth! Get This Off Our Screens”.

Even at the BBC, where EastEnders is produced, as Cashman wrote in 2003, a senior corporation executive “asked for the entire episode to be axed or edited – without even having seen it.”

He co-founded gay rights charity Stonewall in 1989 and in 2010 led the calls for the charity to give its support to equal marriage.

In 2006, he entered a civil partnership with his partner of 23 years, Paul Cottingham, and in May 2012, he became the first member of the European Parliament to join the Out4Marriage campaign.

Last month, Cashman criticised the “deeply worrying” appointment of Nicky Morgan as Minister for Women and Equalities and Education Secretary, who voted against same-sex marriage.

The Pink Triangle Trust was set up in 1992. The Trust publishes the quarterly Pink Humanist magazine.

PTT Secretary George Broadhead commented:

The Trust warmly welcomes this appointment.

5 responses to “Gay Humanist becomes a Peer”

  1. David Anderson says:

    Let’s hope that Cashman isn’t a feminist as well. It would cause great difficulty with the pronouns he/she for some.

  2. The Woggler says:

    I can’t understand why the hell we need 770 unelected peers . But if we do need them, I’m glad that Michael Cashman is one of them.

  3. Paul Cook says:

    The reason is easily explained in one word:

  4. Angela_K says:

    As much as I disprove of the principle of a “House of Lords” I hope Lord Cashman will go some small way to counter-balance the assorted religious types who are guaranteed a seat.

  5. A Confused Atheist says:

    I agree with ‘The Woggler’: I see no need for Peers of the Realm in this day and age, where either a Senate to fill the gap or a unicameral House of Commons would suffice; however, should we have to have Peers, Michael Cashman certainly would be a great one.

    Cashman did a great job of portraying such a character in EastEnders, and his will to continue and shrug off the bigotry that has haunted him for decades is commendable.