Tory councillor suspended after being accused of homophobia

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A Bristol Tory councillor who criticised gay actor Ian McKellen’s visits to schools has been suspended by his party.

Chris Windows, who represents Henbury ward, has agreed to be “voluntarily suspended”, the Conservative Party said.

He told a council meeting on Tuesday that he was “disturbed” to hear that Stonewall and the actor had been speaking to local children about being gay.

“I am unhappy and a little disturbed at the involvement of Stonewall in our local schools and particularly the use of a certain leading actor as a potential role model for our impressionable young people,” he said.

A Conservative Party statement said: “In light of the controversy surrounding the remarks made by Councillor Chris Windows, from Bristol city council, he has agreed to voluntarily suspend himself from all his council responsibilities for an appropriate period. He has asked the Conservative group to decide upon the length of his voluntary suspension.

“The decision to voluntarily suspend the Conservative whip reflects his deeply held rejection of all forms of homophobia and his regret that offence may have been caused by his remarks.

“He intends to use his time away from council business to meet with Stonewall and understand the important work they do to prevent homophobic bullying.”

Mr Windows said he was not homophobic but was concerned that “confused” pupils could get bullied.

Matthew Sephton, chairman of Conservative-affiliated LGBT group LGBTory, said: “Cllr Windows was wrong to make the comments he did. What he said was potentially hurtful to the many young people who suffer from homophobic bullying in their schools.

“The Conservatives made a clear commitment in their equalities manifesto, published before the general election, to tackle homophobic and transphobic bullying in our schools and this work has already begun and has been welcomed by Stonewall. What Cllr Windows said is not compatible with the party’s pledges on this vital issue.”

He added: “I am pleased that Cllr Windows has been suspended from Bristol city council and I hope that, by meeting with Stonewall during the time of his suspension, he will truly appreciate the vital work they do in helping protect our young people from unnecessary and hurtful bullying that can have very serious consequences for our young people, and impact detrimentally on their lives, families and other relationships.”