If there was one key message from this year’s PinkNews Awards, it’s that religion is no excuse for homophobia

Diane Abbott and Andrew Moffat spoke out at the PinkNews Awards

The PinkNews Awards on Wednesday was dominated by calls to protect LGBT-inclusive education in schools.

Inclusive education was one of the key themes of the evening at the annual event in Westminster on Wednesday, alongside transgender rights.

Andrew Moffatt, a teacher at Birmingham’s Parkfield School whose No Outsiders programme sparked a wave of protests, won the Role Model award.

The award was presented by the Conservative West Midlands mayor Andy Street, who is gay, and spoke about the “challenges” brought to the area.

Andy Street: Equalities teaching must be defended.

Street said: “It’s not something I recognise in terms of the modern image of Birmingham, but we have to be honest and acknowledge it’s happening in our city. It’s something I feel very passionately about and wanted to speak out about.

“Equalities teaching is going on in all of the city’s primary schools, quite rightly. It is a requirement of the law, and it must be defended.”

West Midlands mayor Andrew Street at the PinkNews Awards

West Midlands mayor Andrew Street at the PinkNews Awards (Paul Grace)

He said: “Of course, there’s a right for individuals to protest, but those protests must be done within the law and within the values of a tolerant, inclusive society.

“Slogans on placards that read ‘Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve’. They are, bluntly put, homophobic, must be called out as such, and cannot be tolerated in our society, most of all at school gates, where young children are seeing that day after day.

“Those protests that we’ve seen on our TV screens give a license to others in society to do wrong, and perhaps it’s no coincidence that one tenth of hate crime in the West Midlands is targeted at people because of their sexuality.

“That is shocking, despite all the progress we’ve made, and it’s equally shocking in terms of the leadership’s reaction to that.”

Andrew Moffat: Ministers should get off the fence

Accepting the award, Andrew Moffat called out the government’s approach to the issue, accusing ministers of giving license to protesters by leaving issues up to schools, rather than making it clear that LGBT+ issues should be taught to all.

He said: “For me it’s about the Department of Education and the government being really clear and robust teaching children that it’s OK to have two mummies and two daddies, and that it’s OK to be gay, because you know what, it is OK to be gay.”

Andrew Moffat led calls for LGBT education as he accepted the Role Model award

Andrew Moffat accepted the Role Model award (Paul Grace)

The teacher continued: “To the government… if you really do [care], stop hiding behind words in your guidance saying we ‘encourage’ schools to teach about LGBT, or ‘if you think it’s age appropriate’, or ‘if the headteacher decides it’s OK to do it’, because that’s not good enough.

“My message to the Department for Education is: get off the fence.”

Labour’s Diane Abbott also added to the calls.

She said: “I have always stood up for LGBT rights, when it wasn’t fashionable or easy, and I’ve done it in my own community.

“One thing I won’t tolerate is, ‘It’s my religion, that’s why I’m homophobic.’ No, you’re homophobic because you’re a homophobe, using your religion as an excuse.”

This is the seventh annual PinkNews Awards, sponsored by Amazon, and taking place at Church House, headquarters of the Church of England.