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Blair given top 'gay icon' accolade

Fo rmer Prime Minister Tony Blair has been recognised as one of the top "gay icons" of the past three decades, with figures such as Boy George, Sir Ian McKellen and Barbra Streisand.

He has been given the accolade by Gay Times to mark its 30th anniversary and has been featured as a cover star for an electronic version of the magazine.

Mr Blair's period as PM saw the lowering of the homosexual age of consent, bringing it into line with that for straight couples, as well as the introduction of civil partnerships.

It comes after he was given an award by GQ magazine earlier this month which declared him the philanthropist of the year.

Gay Times said of Mr Blair's contribution: "Whatever the realities of his philanthropy and the backlash to his GQ award, his status as an ambassador of gay rights is undeniable.

"An equal age of consent, the abolition of Section 28, legal recognition for trans people, civil partnerships, banning employers from sacking you because of who you love and making homophobia a hate crime - they were all on Blair's watch."

Mr Blair featured on the cover to the magazine once before in March 1997, when he was still the leader of the opposition, although it was a stylised image rather than a posed shot. He also wrote for the magazine in 2005 in the run up to the General Election of that year.

Responding to his "gay icon" title, he said: "It's something I'm very proud of. I consider it a significant part of my legacy. I remember Section 28, that was pretty nasty.

"It created a very ugly atmosphere in society - as I was growing up in politics, I disliked the hypocrisy where people had to conceal their own identity. And I saw the pain that they had in their own lives, because they couldn't be who they were."

Editor Darren Scott said: " Wherever you stand politically, you'd be hard pushed to deny what Tony Blair and his government did for the LGBT community. He definitely helped paved the way, and for that I'm grateful."

The printed edition of the magazine will feature James Sutton on the cover when it goes on sale on October 1. The electronic version goes on sale today at www.gtdigi.co.uk.

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