Gay police honour campaigning priest

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The Gay Police Association has honoured the chief executive of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM).

The Reverend Richard Kirker was awarded the Matthew Windibank Memorial Award at the 17th GPA Annual Dinner in Brighton on Saturday.

The award recognises those individuals and organisations that have made an outstanding contribution to the progression of gay equality inside and outside the police service.

It was named in memory of a founding member of the GPA who died in 1999.

GPA national training coordinator Vic Codling told that the LGCM had been very supportive over a controversial advert the association ran last year.

Rev Kirker, who was accompanied by his partner and his mother, is due to step down from the LGCM next year.

He said the award was a “remarkable honour” and a tribute to the work he and many others put into the LGCM.

The GPA advert, which displayed a pool of blood next to a Bible, attracted the biggest number of complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority last year.

553 complaints from Christian groups such as the Evangelical Alliance and Christian Voice claimed that the Gay Police Association advert promoted religious hatred.

The GPA advert said: “In the last 12 months, the GPA has recorded a 74% increase in homophobic incidents, where the sole or primary motivating factor was the religious belief of the perpetrator.”

The Advertising Standards Authority ruled in October that the advert, which appeared in the diversity supplement of The Independent to coincide with EuroPride last July, may have caused offence to Christians.

Rev Kirker told the GPA dinner that his father was a policeman, paid tribute to his mother for her support, and spoke of his “gratitude and pride” at receiving the Matthew Windibank memorial award, but warned that the work for gay eqaulity is far from over.

Rev Kirker urged the GPA to give its full support to a proposed new offence of incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Alistair Melling, the GPA Force Coordinator for Thames Valley Police, received the GPA FC of the Year 2007 award.

The GPA dinner was also addressed by Michael Cunningham, the deputy chief constable of Lancashire, who is lead chief officer on lesbian, gay bisexual and trans issues for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).

Mr Cunningham said he was honoured to be present at the dinner, and recommended Blackpool for 2008.

He spoke about the work ACPO is doing around gender identity, and explained that earlier this year trans issues were given their own forum separate from the LGB forum.

In a hard-hitting speech, Mr Cunningham said that officers who have a problem serving with gay colleagues are not welcome in the police.

He also revealed that ACPO is about to produce new guidelines on the expression of faith in the workplace.

Mr Cunningham said that the lack of offence of incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation was a “glaring gap” in protections for gay people.

It was the first time that the GPA Annual Dinner had been held in Brighton and Sussex Police’s Assistant Chief Constable Jeremy Paine gave a welcome speech at the start of the evening.