Michael Cashman, the Labour MEP for the West Midlands has received a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in the Queens New Years Honours list in recognition of his tirelesss fight for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality.
Mr Cashman a co-founder of the gay equality organisation Stonewall was elected an MEP in 1999.
“This announcement is as big a surprise at it is an honour.”
“I have had an amazing life where I have been able to stand up for the values and principles which I believe in and to effect real change for my life and the lives of others. Not a day goes by when I don’t recognise how lucky and fortunate I have been in my life.
“Whilst we have achieved so much in terms of legal equality for LGBT people in the UK we still have so much more to do. Discrimination still exists and it destroys and blights so many lives. In other parts of the world people are imprisoned, criminalised or face capital punishment simply because they are different. On behalf of all those people I proudly accept this honour and commit to continue the fight for equality”.
Cashman shot to fame in 1987 when he delivered the first gay kiss on prime time British TV when his character Colin Russell kissed lover Barry Clark on the forehead in an episode of EastEnders.
Out before joining EastEnders, he went on in 1989 to help found the gay rights campaign group Stonewall and was its chair until 1996.
He became the Labour MEP for the West Midlands in 1999 and while in Brussels has campaigned against discrimination and for human rights.
He is standing down as an MEP in the next European elections in 2014.