Melanie Phillips voted Stonewall’s ‘Bigot of the Year’
Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips took on strong competition at Thursday night’s Stonewall Awards to become the charity’s Bigot of the Year.
Phillips was chosen by the Stonewall supporters as the figure to most notably have “gone out of their way to harm, hurt or snub lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the last year”.
In January, she accused the government of trying to brainwash children by including references to gays in lessons about censuses and population movement, and by teaching about the roles of the male in other species.
It was, she said, an “an abuse of childhood”, part of a “ruthless campaign by the gay rights lobby to destroy the very concept of normal sexual behaviour”.
Other contenders who lost out were Scottish entrepreneur and Section 28 backer Brian Souter, who was knighted this year; Christian Voice leader Stephen Green and the Rt Rev Arthur Roche, a previous nominee who campaigned for adoption agencies to be allowed to bar gay people.
But the boos were reserved solely for Ms Phillips at the predominantly positive event, held at London’s V&A Museum.
Comedian Stephen K Amos and Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill presented a host of awards to celebrate the contributions of public figures to gay life this year.
Writer of the Year went to novelist Alan Hollinghurst, whose critically-acclaimed works have probed many aspects of gay life. He said he saw it as a “marvellous stroke of luck to be gay and have such a subject to explore”.
Chris Bryant MP won the award for Politician of the Year. His civil partner Jared Cranney picked up the award on his behalf, and described it as a “great honour”. Cranney and Bryant made history last year by being the first couple to enter into a civil partnership in the Palace of Westminster.
Anton Hysen, the world’s only openly gay professional footballer, was Sportsperson of the Year. The Swedish player was praised for taking a stand in the sport.
Hysen, who was flying into London on the night, was delayed but made an eleventh hour appearance to be presented with his award. Apologising on behalf of his budget airline, he thanked his team mates and supporters and stressed his desire for more players to come out of the closet, encouraging everyone to “be proud of yourself”.
The Guardian Weekend won Publication of the Year, praised for portraying the “normality” of gay life.
The group UK Black Pride was voted Community Group of the Year and presented with a cheque for £5,000.
Scott Mills’ BBC3 documentary The World’s Worst Place To Be Gay was named the Broadcast of the Year. The film examined the dangers of homosexuality in Uganda.
Mills dedicated the award to Ugandan rights activist David Kato, who was murdered outside his home in Kampala earlier this year.
Jane Hazlegrove was awarded Entertainer of the Year for her five-year role as Kathleen “Dixie” Dixon on Casualty. She said the award “means the world to me”, affectionately thanked her “missus” and told the audience: “It’s great to be gay”.
The award for Journalist of the Year resulted in a tie between Vanessa Feltz and Attitude magazine’s Matthew Todd, who was selected for bringing a “new edge and maturity” to gay publications.
Feltz, praised for regularly using her platforms to fairly discuss gay issues, gave an impassioned acceptance speech and vowed to continue to “keep fighting the good fight” for LGBT people.
She said she regretted that it looked as though she would go her whole life without ever having had a “lesbian fumble”. Todd, who followed her to collect his award, consoled her, saying he “had never had one either”.
The main award of the evening, the Hero of the Year, was given by a Stonewall supporter vote to Roger Crouch.
In 2010, 15-year-old Dominic Crouch, took his own life. He had allegedly been the victim of homophobic bullying at his school following a game in which he accepted a dare to kiss another boy.
Since Dominic’s death, his father, Roger, has dedicated himself to raising awareness of homophobic bullying in schools.
To a standing ovation, Mr Crouch said the award was dedicated to his son and to all the people whose lives had “been cut short by bulling”.
In an emotional acceptance speech, he talked of the “gap in our lives” left by his son’s suicide. Homophobia, he said, “demeans us all, like racism demeans us whether we are black or white”.
He paid tribute to Paul Martin, the chief executive of the Manchester-based Lesbian & Gay Foundation and encouraged everyone to challenge “schools, councils and government” to “ask what they are doing to make schools safer” for children.
The event was attended by over 400 guests, with politicians and celebrities including Russell Tovey, Gok Wan and Louis Spence.
Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill said: “The Stonewall Awards celebrate those who have made a positive impact on gay people’s lives, and also provide a platform to showcase inspirational lesbian, gay and bisexual role models. Those role models make a massive difference to the quality of many young gay people’s lives”.
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