The United Kingdom’s gay rights and equality campaigning charity ‘Stonewall’ held their annual awards ceremony in London this week amid controversy over one sponsor – Barclays Bank pulling out after pressure from a right wing Christian group, despite a number of religious figures nominated for awards.
The international bank, itself currently subject to numerous investigations and accusations of corrupt practices, fraudulent behaviour and misspelling millions of insurances tried to blackmail the charity – warning they would pull sponsorship of the awards and end support of the charity and gay rights unless they removed one of the awards entitled Bigot Of The Year. Mark McLane, Barclays head of diversity 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.”
Stonewall Chief Executive Ben Summerskill hit back “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”. The affable and friendly Mr Summerskill added “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 Bigot of the Year award remained in place in the ceremony and was won by UK’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal Keith O’Brien. The cardinal has been a staunch and prominent opponent of marriage equality, his repeated comments have been deeply offensive claiming same-sex relationships are “harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing” and compared equal marriage to slavery and child abuse. He describes marriage equality as “grotesque,” and under his leadership, the Catholic Church in Scotland did ‘declare war’ on marriage equality, giving over £100,000 to fight it.
Whilst it may not be very nice to call someone a bigot, in cases like this, when our opponents attack us with such virulent hatred and lies on a regular basis, such a name called is wholly justified and completely accurate.
Top TV presenter and comedian Sue Perkins took home the entertainer of the year award in front of the 450 people resent at the award ceremony at the Victorian and Albert museum in London. The host of ratings surprise hit The Great British Bake Off, Perkins dedicated her award to her comedy and presenting partner Mel Giedroyc.
Almost 10,000 Stonewall supporters voted for Reverend Giles Fraser to receive the Hero of the Year accolade as an inspirational faith leader who supports gay people. Collecting his award, he congratulated Stonewall for standing up to bigotry. Fraser said: ‘I’m ashamed that I share the same profession as so many of the people that were nominated and received the Bigot of the Year Award. Why I’m proud of Stonewall, and why I’m proud and delighted to have received this award, is because what you seek to attack, and what you seek to challenge, is fear.’
Jeanette Winterson was named Writer of the Year for her bestselling memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?. The Rugby Football League received the sports award for its fight against homophobia, ‘This is a fantastic honour for rugby league. We’re proud to stand up and say there’s no place for homophobia in sport.’ said Sarah Williams, their equality and diversity manager
Other notable winners included newspaper columnists Owen Jones and Hugo Rifkind, who shared award for Journalist of the Year. Stonewall’s Ben Summerskill said: ‘As ever, I’m humbled by the dedication with which this year’s Award winners have been advancing equality for millions of people. Their efforts have never been more valuable and we will never be deterred from celebrating their contribution – or from highlighting the bigotry and malice expressed by some public figures towards gay people in this country.’
Full list of the winners:
Hero of the Year (supported by PwC) – Reverend Giles Fraser
Broadcast of the Year (supported by London Women’s Clinic) – Britain’s Got Talent
Entertainer of the Year – Sue Perkins
Journalist of the Year – Hugo Rifkind (The Times) and Owen Jones (The Independent)
Politician of the Year – Ruth Davidson MSP
Publication of the Year – GayStarNews.com
Sports Award of the Year – Rugby Football League
Writer of the Year – Jeanette Winterson (Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?)
Community Group of the Year (supported by Square Peg Media and the Inclusive Foundation) – East London Out Project
Bigot of the Year – Cardinal Keith O’Brien