WEST Midlands Labour Party MEP Michael Cashman was awarded a CBE in the New Year’s Honours List for his tireless work fighting for equality.
Mr Cashman, famous for his acting role in Eastenders where he was half of British soap’s first gay kiss as well as helping to found the Stonewall Group in the UK , said the announcement came as a ‘big surprise’ but that he accepted it on behalf of all those still campaigning for equal rights.
"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,” said Mr Cashman. “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,” he said. “Discrimination still exists and it destroys and blights so many lives.”
Mr Cashman said in other parts of the world people were imprisoned, criminalised or faced capital punishment simply because they were different.
“On behalf of all those people I proudly accept this honour and commit to continue the fight for equality.”
As chair of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, Mr Cashman has been an active campaigner across a wide range of issues and is a strong critic of any form of discrimination, a defender of human rights and has worked to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
He was twice previously awarded the title of MEP of the year in 2007 and 2012 and received the European Diversity Lifetime Achievement Award (2012).