Stonewall defends ‘bigot’ awards category after banks withdraw support

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The UK’s largest gay rights charity has defended its ‘Bigot of the Year’ title following complaints from two of its corporate supporters.

According to the Telegraph, two banks, Barclays and Coutts both say they may withdraw support for Stonewall’s annual awards ceremony, which is taking place in central London on Thursday, after Christian activists complained about the singling out of individuals for the bigot category.

Mark McLane, managing director and head of global diversity and inclusion at Barclays, said: “I have recently been made aware of the inclusion of a ‘Bigot of the Year’ category in the awards.

“Let me be absolutely clear that Barclays does not support that award category either financially, or in principle and have informed Stonewall that should they decide to continue with this category we will not support this event in the future.

“To label any individual so subjectively and pejoratively runs contrary to our view on fair treatment, and detracts from what should be a wholly positively focused event.”

Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill has rebuffed the criticism, saying:

“We have never called anyone a bigot just because they disagreed with us. All the nominees have gone well beyond what anyone normal would call a decent level of public discourse”.

Mr Summerskill continued: “We welcome sponsorship from anyone who shares our core values, but we have an obligation to the 3.6 million gay people to do what is right, and highlighting extreme examples of bigotry when we know how harmful this unpleasantness is to the self-esteem of young people is right.”

The charity says the awards celebrate those who have made a “positive impact on the lives of lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Britain in the last year”.

However, those who are deemed to have fought hard to undermine equality are also acknowledged in its controversial bigot category.

The most high-profile figure on this year’s list is Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the UK’s most senior Catholic.

He has been a staunch critic of government plans to introduce equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, describing the measure as “grotesque” earlier this year.

Lord Ken Maginnis, the former Ulster Unionist MP, who lost the party whip at Westminster in June for referring to same-sex marriage as “unnatural and deviant behaviour” has also been nominated, along with Simon Lokodo, the anti-gay Ugandan ethics and integrity minister, who presided over a homophobic crackdown of LGBT organisations in Uganda back in June.

The former leader of the Christian Peoples Alliance, Alan Craig was also nominated.

Mr Craig caused outrage by comparing gay equality advocates to the invading forces of Nazi Germany and dubbing them the “Gaystapo”.

Despite criticising Stonewall, Mr Craig has said he would like to attend the awards ceremony.

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