GARY Millar, best known for his work with Parr Street Studios in Liverpool, has been sworn in as the city’s new Lord Mayor.
It’s a strange twist that while old-style Tories in the Houses of Parliament were getting themselves in a lather over gay marriages all week, more decisive political-gay history was being made in Liverpool Town Hall.
Nobody owns the word marriage. If people use the religious argument then I’m sorry, I disagree. Everyone has a right to life, to breathe and to think and say what they feel
Without singing the news from the balcony of the historic building, Liverpool became the first city in the country to have a Lord Mayor and a Lord Mayor’s Consort who are legally together in a civil partnership.
Lord Mayor Millar and his partnerm Steve McFarlanem have been a couple for more than 30 years and cemented their close bond in a civic ceremony in Liverpool in 2007.
The new Lord Mayor says he never even thought, even more than three decades ago, to hide his sexual orientation.
“We just fell in love more than 30 years ago and that was it,” the Lord Mayor told me.
His elevation to the Number One citizen in his adopted city could work wonders for inclusiveness in Liverpool.
He has vowed during his year of office to stand up for all sections of society, irrespective of politics, creed or no faith, or sexual orientation.
“I won’t, during my year of office, be banging the gay drum. That would not be appropriate. But I will be banging the drum for everybody, whoever they are. I don’t wear my gayness, I am just Gary, and Steve is just Steve.
“I didn’t fall in love with Steve because he was a man. I fell in love with his heart and his humour. Our straight friends just regard us as a married couple, and think nothing of it.
“As for opposition to gay marriages, nobody owns the word marriage. If people use the religious argument then I’m sorry, I disagree.
“Everyone has a right to life, to breathe and to think and say what they feel.
"One of my closest friends was very homophobic. He met me and realized I don’t have two heads, I didn‘t chase after him, I’m just an ordinary bloke. His homophobic thoughts were fuelled by a stereotypical impression of gay people. He now has a completely different point of view and I am proud to regard him and his wife as close friends.”
It was a course in computing at Liverpool Polytechnic that brought Cllr Millar from Leith, near Edinburgh, in the 1980s. He was one of those students who came here, graduated and stayed. He became a successful entrepreneur and is a regular contributor on Liverpool radio station City Talk 105.9fm, talking about all things computers.
Cllr Millar was first elected to the city council as a Lib Dem member for Old Swan ward, but in 2011 switched to the newly ruling Labour group.
Of his new role, Cllr Millar said: “Growing up, I never once imagined that I would be asked to be Lord Mayor of such a fantastic city.
“I am humbled and honoured to be chosen as Liverpool’s first citizen and I hope to work with as many people, communities, organisations and businesses as possible in order to further promote this wonderful city.”
Gary Millar Lord Mayor
Cllr Millar has chosen to back charities tackling cancer and homelessness; to support vulnerable children and those with special educational needs and disabilities. He also wants to help create a safe haven in the city for LGBT youth.
His nominated charities include The Linda McCartney Centre, The Whitechapel Centre, Variety - The Children’s Charity and the Michael Causer Foundation,
One of his first actions as Lord Mayor was to heap praise on outgoing Lord Mayor, Cllr Sharon Sullivan.
“Sharon was the people’s Lord Mayor, attending over 1,000 events during her year. If I can do a job half as well as Sharon I will be happy.”