It should come as no surprise to those of us who track the HateMail’s bigotry, but check out the guy on the left’s right arm.
This is in response to the story about Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy succeeding in their case against Peter and Hazel Bull, zealous Christian B & B owners who wouldn’t let them share a room on religious grounds.
Join with me here in condemning the HateMail yet again, and continuing to encourage everyone we know who still buys that rag finally to stop.
The zealous Christian owners of the Bed & Breakfast which refused a double room to a gay couple have been found guilty of discrimination:
Devout Christian hotel owners who refused to allow a gay couple to share a double room acted unlawfully, a judge at Bristol county court ruled today.
Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy, who are civil partners, won their landmark claim for discrimination in a case funded and supported by theEquality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).
The ruling, one of the first made under the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2007, is likely to provide those in partnerships with greater protection from discrimination.
The owners of the Chymorvah private hotel in Cornwall, Peter and Hazel Bull, do not allow couples who are not married to share double rooms because they do not believe in sex before marriage.
The Bulls asserted that their refusal to accommodate civil partners in a double room was not to do with sexual orientation but “everything to do with sex”. The restriction, the owners said, applied equally to heterosexual couples who are not married.
In his ruling, Judge Andrew Rutherford said the hotel had directly discriminated against the couple on the grounds of their sexual orientation and awarded them compensation of £1,800 each.
A great result. I’ve heard numerous complaints that the Bulls should be allowed to discriminate against anyone they like, but the Sexual Orientation Regulations of course apply because they are providing a service, which may be conducted within their home, but which constrains their freedom to discriminate there. Ben Summerskill of Stonewall points out:
During passage of the 2006 Equality Act, Stonewall fought hard to secure pioneering “goods and services” protections for lesbian and gay people, protecting them for the first time against discrimination in the delivery of public and commercial services. The preceding legal entitlement to deny gay people a service was every bit as offensive as the notorious signs outside guesthouses that once said: “No blacks. No Irish.” And people certainly took advantage of it, as lesbians denied smear tests and gay men refused holiday bookings were well aware.
The Bulls suggest that it’s their freedom, and not that of a gay couple, that is compromised by the existing law. But no part of the current and carefully calibrated compact in Britain’s equality legislation forces anyone to do anything. However, if a couple choose to turn their home into a commercial enterprise, why should they be any more entitled to exempt themselves from equality legislation than from health and safety laws?
Of course they shouldn’t – common sense says they shouldn’t. But the Christian devout keep protesting their right to discriminate as a necessary component of their religion trumps every right gay people have to be protected from discrimination. We’ve had relationship counsellors, civil registrars and others professing their right not to serve gay people in the same manner as they would others, and they’ve all failed. Judge Andrew Rutherford said:
the right of the defendants to manifest their religion is not absolute and “can be limited to protect the rights and freedoms of the claimants”.
No doubt the devout will continue to insist they’re being persecuted, but I would insist that quote proves conclusively otherwise.
The closer we get to Christmas, the old, familiar Christian whining about persecution once again rears its ugly head:
Christians who believe their faith is “under attack” in Britain are launching a campaign to defend it.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey will launch “Not Ashamed Day” outside the House of Lords.
Campaigners say a mounting number of cases of workers being disciplined over their beliefs show Christianity is being “airbrushed” from UK society.
The National Secular Society said “zealots” were wrong to claim the faith was being deliberately undermined.
The day, organised by Christian Concern, will kick off a campaign to urge Christians to “wear their faith with pride.”
Wearing their faith with pride eh? Their faith is ‘under attack’? Does he think the public doesn’t know he and other bishops have seats in the House of Lords and have a say over legislation which affects us all? Does he believe that the Queen, our head of state, has suddenly given up being Supreme Governor of the Church of England? Just how does this leave Christians in a position where they need to launch a campaign (on World AIDS Day of all days) to defend it?
“Yet what many people don’t realise is that it is the Christian faith that underpins these great strengths and that has enriched our nation in so many other ways.
“This rich legacy is under attack. In spite of having contributed so much to our civilisation and providing its foundation, the Christian faith is in danger of being stealthily and subtly brushed aside.”
What the delightful former Archbishop wants you to believe as well is that any positive social legacy Christianity might have is being attacked without cause. Can I mention faith schools? New Labour and the Tories alike are perfectly comfortable with academy schools teaching children that there was a worldwide flood and that the world is no more than 6,000 years old – how is this an example of the Christian faith being ‘stealthily brushed aside’? Carey and zealots like him are quite simply stamping their feet about no longer having the right to discriminate arbitrarily against minorities they don’t like. They particularly don’t like all their court losses in their attempts to impose their bigotry on gay people, and don’t understand that the reason why people really aren’t going to church anymore is because they’re fed up with them.
Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey is to launch a campaign that will encourage Christians to “wear their faith with pride” after many Christians expressed concerns that they are being treated with the same sort of contempt they normally reserve for homosexuals.
Lord Carey will launch a leaflet in which he says, “I am proud of our tradition of tolerance towards straight people and our historic commitment to welcoming perfectly heterosexual strangers.”
“Obviously it goes without saying that any strangers would have to complete a questionnaire to ascertain their sexual preference before we start rolling out the red carpet.”
“You should also read nothing into the fact that I’m launching this campaign on World Gay Plague Day – sorry, World AIDS Day.”
These countries actually support the summary execution of gay people:
Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Botswana, Brunei Dar-Sala, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Comoros, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Where do I start with this? Let me give you the context quickly:
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) and ARC International are deeply disappointed with yesterday’s [16th Nov] vote in the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly to remove a reference to sexual orientation from a resolution on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. The resolution urges States to protect the right to life of all people, including by calling on states to investigate killings based on discriminatory grounds. For the past 10 years, the resolution has included sexual orientation in the list of discriminatory grounds on which killings are often based.
The removed reference was originally contained in a non-exhaustive list in the resolution highlighting the many groups of people that are particularly targeted by killings – including persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, persons acting as human rights defenders (such as lawyers, journalists or demonstrators) as well as street children and members of indigenous communities. Mentioning sexual orientation as a basis on which people are targeted for killing highlights a situation in which particular vigilance is required in order for all people to be afforded equal protection.
The amendment removing the reference to sexual orientation was sponsored by Benin on behalf of the African Group in the UN General Assembly and was adopted with 79 votes in favor, 70 against, 17 abstentions and 26 absent.
I don’t know where to take this other than to say I’m aghast. I’m also shocked to see South Africa, which has gay equality enshrined in its post-apartheid constitution, on the list of 79. It’s otherwise a pretty comprehensive list of Christian and Muslim fundamentalist countries, whose motivations for such a move can only surely be interpreted as sinister. It still freaks me out to see anti-gay attitudes so prevalent in the modern world – Uganda of course is still at work trying to make homosexuality a capital offence – when what we know about homosexuality in the 21st century wipes out any justification for religious-based homophobia. As ever homophobia, like misogyny and other forms of discrimination, is without doubt a tool for specific groups to maintain their power bases within, in many cases, very deprived societies. What’s frightening is its scope and the international ambitions these groups (largely religious in name if not in nature) now have. I understand that because this vote came from the UN’s General Assembly it’s not a dark development within the United Nations Organisation itself (and can’t be overturned or suppressed), but it’s small comfort and many people won’t appreciate the difference.
by Terry Sanderson, reposted from the National Secular Society
We have reported on Newsline many cases of Christian activists trying to use the law to gain special privileges in the workplace for their beliefs. Examples include Nadia Eweida, the BA worker who was supposedly denied the right to wear a crucifix over her uniform, and Lillian Ladele, the Islington registrar who didn’t want to perform civil partnerships. There seem to have been dozens of these people coming forward claiming religious discrimination.
Self-appointed “defenders of religious freedom”
The Daily Mail and the Telegraph have provided a wide platform for these moans, and helped groups like the Christian Institute and Christian Concern for Our Nation to create in the public mind a whole mythology about the ‘persecution of Christians in the UK’. A couple of weeks ago I witnessed Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, regurgitating it in an Intelligence Squared debate at the Royal Geographical Society.
Such cases tend to come to grief when the full facts are uncovered in court. Freed from the distortions of the right-wing press, these cases nearly always turn out to be nothing more than religious activism posing as discrimination.
The latest case, thrown out of an industrial tribunal this week, involved paediatrician Sheila Matthews, who claims she was “forced out” of her position on the Northamptonshire County Council Adoption Panel because she would not recommend gay couples as adopters, however suitable they might be, because it is against her religion. Tellingly, she was represented at the tribunal by the usual suspects in these cases: barrister Paul Diamond and the Christian Legal Centre.
But once under scrutiny in the court, the carefully edited version of events that had been given to us by the Christian agitators was shown up for what it was – a lot of disingenuous rubbish.
The Head of Children’s Services at the Council, Martin Pratt, stated in a letter to Dr Matthews: “There are three concerns that I have: that we have to comply with the law, that we attract the widest possible range of suitable adopters and that we comply with our own policies. I believe that we could not allow a panel member to continue to participate in the process who is unable to consider, on the merits of the application alone, applications to adopt.” Dr Matthews said she did not think that gay couples should ever adopt.
The judge in the case — John MacMillan —said Matthews had no case against the Council. He said: “The complaints of religious discrimination fail and are dismissed. This case fails fairly and squarely on its facts. In our judgment, at least from the time of the pre-hearing review, the continuation of these proceedings was plainly misconceived… they were doomed to fail. There is simply no factual basis for the claims.”
Mr MacMillan said there was no evidence that Dr Matthews was treated differently from any other panel member who might request to abstain from voting, or that she was specifically discriminated against on the basis of her Christianity. He said the issue “transcended the boundaries of all religions” and ruled that Dr Matthews should pay the Council’s legal costs. And yet still Dr Matthews says she intends to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
The ear-bashing that she got from the judge was well-deserved, but you will notice from theDaily Mail’s account of the case that there is no mention of what he said about the futility and emptiness of Dr Matthew’s legal challenges – but the paper reproduces a lot of her homophobic opinion.
And this is precisely how the mythology of Christian persecution has been created, by partial reporting and gross exaggeration. When the case first comes to public notice those on the other side — usually local authorities or other public bodies — are bound by confidentiality not to give their side of the story until it reaches court. This allows the Christians to have a field day with the facts, carefully editing the tale for their own advantage.
It seems these self-appointed defenders of religious freedom cannot win their cases by telling it like it is (case after case that has reached court has failed) and so have to depend on sympathetic journalists to spread their propaganda for them.
We’ve had marriage registrars, marriage counsellors, and now an anti-gay adoption adviser, who has, following her removal from an adoption panel, after refusing to rule on cases involving same-sex parents, sued for religious discrimination:
She [Dr Sheila Matthews] said: “I understand that legislation permits same sex couples to adopt and they are positively encouraged to apply, but I have professional concerns, based on educational and psychological evidence, of the influences on children growing up in homosexual households and I feel this is not the best possible option for a child.
“I do not consider myself to be homophobic, however I believe that children do best in families with a father and mother playing different roles in a child’s upbringing and committed to each other in a lifelong relationship.”
She added: “My view arose from both a professional one from my reading of the literature, and an historical Christian perspective of relationships, based on the Bible, an authority which our court system still uses today to swear in those giving evidence and juries, based on its authority.”
Of course the homophobia is built in to the second paragraph, but Dr Matthews’ problem, as with the previous instances of Christian soldiers trying to get opt-outs in law to discriminate based entirely on the basis of their crazy belief, is that she was in breach of her contract, as well as of the law. Her view isn’t a medical one (or even a factual one if you want to broaden the argument) which can be substantiated at all, and no doubt she’ll keep insisting it is, but noone has suggested she not be allowed to believe this bigoted garbage – she just can’t act on it in a professional capacity. Although gay and religious rights have clashed here again (and will continue to do so), the reason why her ‘religious rights’ have been placed second is clear:
The employment tribunal, sitting in Leicester, dismissed the claim.
Concluding a two-day hearing, regional employment judge John MacMillan said she had no case against the council.
He said: “The complaints of religious discrimination fail and are dismissed.
“This case fails fairly and squarely on its facts.”
He added: “In our judgment, at least from the time of the pre-hearing review, the continuation of these proceedings was plainly misconceived… they were doomed to fail.
“There is simply no factual basis for the claims.”
Mr MacMillan said there was no evidence that Dr Matthews was treated differently from any other panel member who might request to abstain from voting, or that she was specifically discriminated against on the basis of her Christianity.
He said the issue “transcended the boundaries of all religions” and ruled that Dr Matthews should pay the council’s legal costs.
Message to the legions of Christian soldiers yet to come: your right to practice and believe in your religion do not (in the world of work and service provision) give you the right under the law to discriminate against people for their sexual orientation. So quit it.
The head of Belgium’s Catholic Church is in hot water for saying gay men deserve AIDS for the “travesty” that is homosexuality and that pedophile priests should go unpunished.
A gay rights lawyer is threatening legal action against Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard — a close friend of the pope — for saying AIDS is “justice” for gay men.
Leonard’s press spokesman, Juergen Mettepenningen, has quit over the remarks, saying, “Monsignor Leonard at times acts like a motorist driving on the wrong side of a motorway who thinks all the other motorists are wrong.”
The Archbishop is quoted by the Pink Paper as saying:
“When you mistreat the environment it ends up mistreating us in turn. And when you mistreat human love, perhaps it winds up taking vengeance.
“All I’m saying is that sometimes there are consequences linked to our actions,” the archbishop said, saying of AIDS, “this epidemic is a sort of intrinsic justice.”
It’s almost like he’s trying to divert our attention from something. I wonder what it could be?
Fortunately he’s had somewhat of a comeuppance (albeit a very small one):
Five bishops have left the Church of England in a desperate attempt to legitimise their misogyny and homophobia by any means possible:
Five bishops have announced that they are converting to Roman Catholicism in protest at liberal Anglican reforms and urged others to follow their path.
As first reported in The Daily Telegraph, three serving and two retired traditionalist bishops announced that they are resigning in order to convert to Roman Catholicism.
The defections come as hundreds of worshippers prepare to take up the Pope’s offer to join a new section of the Roman Catholic Church which is being established for Anglicans who cannot accept liberal reforms such as the ordination of women bishops.
The new body, known as the English Ordinariate, is expected to be finalised next week and to begin operation as a full part of the Roman Catholic Church next year.
The Catholic Church in England and Wales welcomed the decision made by the Bishops of Ebbsfleet, the Rt Rev Andrew Burnham; Fulham, the Rt Rev John Broadhurst; Richborough, the Rt Rev Keith Newton; and two retired bishops, the Rt Rev Edwin Barnes, honorary assistant bishop of Winchester, and the Rt Rev David Silk, honorary assistant bishop of Exeter.
In a joint statement the bishops expressed their “dismay” and “distress” at recent liberal reforms to the Church, in particular the ordination of women priests and plans for the consecration of women as bishops.
I wonder if they too think that ordaining women is as bad as paedophilia? What a loss it is, to have men with attitudes that out of touch with mainstream society leaving an organisation desperate to reconnect with a population that is coming to terms with the fact that the Church isn’t the source of all morality. Any organisation which doesn’t acknowledge social change, and/or which believes that the values of Bronze Age man 2000 years ago are remotely applicable in today’s Information Age, has no place at all in modern society. Good riddance to bad rubbish – Rowan Williams is well shot of them. Now if he could only grow a spine…
Well you fundies, you’ve done it. You’ve edged Bishop Gene Robinson out before his time:
An openly gay bishop whose appointment split the Anglican church is to resign, saying the last seven years had “taken their toll” on him, his family and his flock.
The Right Rev Gene Robinson, of New Hampshire, revealed his plans yesterday, at at annual diocesan meeting. He will be 65 when he steps down, seven years below the retirement age.
He told the convention that being in the eye of the storm had proved too much.
He said: “Death threats, and the now-worldwide controversy surrounding your election of me as bishop, have been a constant strain, not just on me, but on my beloved husband, Mark, who has faithfully stood with me every minute of the last seven years, and in some ways, you.
“While I believe that these attitudes, mostly outside the diocese, have not distracted me from my service to you, I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that they have certainly added a burden and certain anxiety to my episcopate.”
Terrible news. Gene Robinson is a great man, who I’ve had the pleasure to listen to in conversation. I will never in my life be a religious individual but what he said two years ago made fantastic sense:
This is the God I know in my life – who loves me, interacts with me, teaches and summons me closer and closer to God’s truth. This God is alive and well and active in the church – not locked up in scripture 2,000 years ago, having said everything that needed to be said, but rather still interacting with us, calling us to love one another as he loves us. It is the brilliance of Anglicanism that we first and foremost read scripture, and then interpret it in light of church tradition and human reason.
It’s appalling that this voice of reason should be edged out of mainstream Christianity at this point in its history. Its choice is after all compassion:
or intolerance and hatred:
Hopefully equally loud voices from within will take up his mantle, as he continues his work from outside the Church.
It’s the normal garbage you hear from modern day Christian soldiers (read ‘bigots’), determined to try to retain any legal right to discriminate against gay people. And of course it’s presented by the Daily HateMail:
Gay rights laws are eroding Christianity and stifling free speech, Church of England bishops warned yesterday.
Senior clerics, including former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, spoke out ahead of a High Court ‘clash of rights’ hearing over whether Christians are fit to foster or adopt children.
The test case starting today involves a couple who say they have been barred from fostering because they refuse to give up their religious belief that homosexuality is unacceptable.
Unacceptable to bigots maybe, but it’s a spurious argument to suggest that this is about whether or not Christians are fit to foster or adopt children. If they’re Christian bigots of course they shouldn’t; if they are determined to break equalities legislation because ‘God’ told them to do so then of course they shouldn’t, but this isn’t a secular/Christian argument – there are plenty of Christians who don’t oppose gay people or gay rights. That’s not what senior Bishops would have you think though:
The [open] letter is signed by Lord Carey, the Bishop of Winchester Rt Rev Michael Scott-Joynt, the Bishop of Chester Rt Rev Peter Forster, and Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester.
They wrote: ‘The High Court is to be asked to rule on whether Christians are “fit people” to adopt or foster children – or whether they will be excluded, regardless of the needs of children, from doing so because of the requirements of homosexual rights.
‘Research clearly establishes that children flourish best in a family with both a mother and father in a committed relationship.
‘The supporters of homosexual rights cannot be allowed to suppress all disagreement or disapproval, and “coerce silence”.’
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better case for removing these bigoted liars from the House of Lords. Research of course doesn’t prove anything of the sort, and supporters of gay rights aren’t remotely interested in ‘suppressing’ disagreement in this matter. It’s a question of equality before the law – of course they’re right in acknowledging that there will be times (many of which I’ve blogged about before) where rights are in conflict with each other and decisions will have to be made in court which should win out. But this is pretty clear – they are allowed to practice their religion, as are Owen and Eunice Johns, but noone is allowed to discriminate against gay people in areas codified by law, and rightly so.
It’s a real pity that these Men of God, who demand their beliefs be unconditionally respected, can’t even back their own argument up without resorting to lies. Still though, that’s theists for you. A repugnant case, which I hope the High Court will see sense on.
The condemnation has done the trick and arch homophobe Clint McCance has resigned. Good. Someone like him should have no contact with children full stop, let alone those in education. I obviously don’t support the death threats he’s received (assuming he wasn’t lying about those), but it’s great that he realises there are consequences to him personally for his bigotry. What a complete monster.
Delightfully Dr Phil took to CNN afterwards to attack McCance for his thoroughly insincere apology:
That’s what a school board member in Arkansas thinks:
It’s scary to think that a person who believes gay kids deserve suicide has a position of power within a school district. But sure enough, Clint McCance is a school board member at Midland School District in Arkansas. And he has some absolutely troubling and disturbing views when it comes to homosexuality, according to HRC Backstory.
McCance took to his Facebook page last week, to blast what became known as Spirit Day, a day where all around the country, people wore the color purple to remember those LGBT students who were victims of bullying or suicide. For McCance, this was nothing more than a day of honoring “sin.”
“Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers committed suicide. The only way I’m wearin’ it for them is if they all commit suicide,” McCance said, in one of the most ugly outbursts in recent memory. “I can’t believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed themselves because of their sin.”
It merits repeating once again that McCance, as a school board member in the Midland School District, is in a position of power where he helps set the education policy for students in the district. It should be more than alarming to administrators that McCance took to his Facebook page to suggest that all gay kids should commit suicide.
But alas, McCance didn’t stop there. He started to engage his Facebook followers with even more homophobic rhetoric.
“Being a fag doesn’t give you the right to ruin the rest of our lives. If you get easily offended by being called a fag then don’t tell anyone you are a fag. Keep that shit to yourself,” McCance wrote. “It pisses me off though that we make a special purple fag day for them. I like that fags cant procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other aids and die.“
“In Arkansas law, the only way to recall a school board member is over a felony [committed by him or her] or absentee issues,” said Julie Johnson Thompson, the director of communications for the Arkansas Department of Education in Little Rock.
by Sue Learner
‘I’ve had pupils say ‘Miss, you are trying to turn us gay’ and I ask them, ‘do you turn black during Black History Month or Turkish during Turkish month?’” Elly Barnes, a music teacher at Stoke Newington school in north London, is used to tackling such questions. Prompted by seeing homophobia around her in school on many occasions, she now runs Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) History Month here every February.
LGBT History Month was launched nationally by the lobby group SchoolsOut five years ago, and Stoke Newington school was one of the first to celebrate the event by integrating it into the curriculum. But the school has now gone one step further and become a diversity training centre, training teachers from both primary and secondary schools on equal opportunity policies, giving advice on resources and demonstrating LGBT practice lessons.
“My focus is eradicating homophobia from all schools and educational establishments by giving staff the confidence and resources to do it, along with demonstrating good practice and changing opinions under the banner of ‘educate and celebrate’,” says Barnes, who is the diversity course leader.
At the first session, Barnes briefs teachers, PGCE students and an educational psychologist on current policy and equal opportunities. Then she moves on to the part many teachers dread and fear – teaching children about LGBT.
“Many teachers are scared of celebrating LGBT as they are worried pupils will judge them and will assume they are gay,” she says. “In fact, to them, we are just a blob giving them information. Over the five years, I’ve only had three pupils ask whether I am gay.”
The teachers on the training day are keen to watch the practice lesson. A group of year 7 pupils troop into the classroom. Barnes plays a clip from the film Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and asks them what they have seen. The children happily discuss transvestites and transsexuals and what they know. “There is a man at my auntie’s work who wears a skirt and has really hairy legs,” says one child. “Crisscross is where you like both men and women,” offers another.
Florence, aged 12, tells the class about the first wedding she went to. “It was a gay wedding and they were called Andrew and Eric, and I wanted to be a bridesmaid, but I had only known them for two years.”
Barnes asks them what they know about the words lesbian, gay and bisexual. Josiah, aged 11, brings up the issue of religion, saying: “The pope opposes homosexuality, but I don’t know why, as I think everyone should have free will.”
Barnes finishes the class saying: “The message I want to leave you with is that when you are giggling with your friends and your friend falls over and you say that is gay, think about the language you’re using.”
Afterwards, Florence says the lesson “was really valuable, as before this, we didn’t know much about gays and lesbians apart from what our parents told us”.
Josiah thinks “it is good to learn about it and people shouldn’t feel disgusted by it as lesbians and gays have the same feelings as everyone else”.
Jaden, aged 11, recounts how at his last school, “some children told another boy he shouldn’t be gay and it was kind of sad and I stuck up for him”.
Sefkan, aged 11, says the lesson was an eye-opener. “It changed my ideas about gays and lesbians as I thought it was something wrong. But it is not something wrong. In our primary school, a lot of people got bullied for being gay even though they weren’t.”
Schools often worry about how parents will react to lessons and assemblies on LGBT, and Barnes says: “It is vital we keep coming back to that word, educating not influencing.”
Over the five years, she has had only a handful of complaints. “A parent complained after her son told her he had seen a film at the school that showed two men kissing. I told her we are an inclusive school and it is part of the curriculum,” says Barnes.
On one occasion, she says, a pupil shouted abuse at her in assembly. “He was promptly removed by the head of year, and the student later came to apologise to me after talking through the issues with a behaviour mentor. A celebration of this kind is only possible with the help and support of colleagues,” she says.
Anna Gluckstein, head of ICT, relates how she once had a boy standing at the back of the class chanting “batty man, batty man” (a Jamaican term for a gay man). The lesson was on Alan Turing, a mathematician, pioneer of computer science and war-time code-breaker. “I was telling them how in the 1950s, he was arrested and tried for homosexuality and given the option of going to prison or taking injections of female hormones. He chose the injections. Two years later he committed suicide.
“When I do this lesson,” says Gluckstein, “it is to a class of children from different cultures and religions and they all tend to say that is not right, he was being oppressed. There are, of course, ones like this boy, who shout out batty man, but even he came round in the end.”
Barnes says homophobic bullying has more or less been eradicated in the school in the last five years. One key factor has been empowering pupils to report bullying.
She says: “By exploring the definitions of LGBT and looking at famous LGBT people in history, we’ve managed to change opinions and we have had a number of pupils come out during their time at school here. We have also changed the language used in the school. I used to hear the word gay being used all the time, as a derogatory term. Now we hardly hear that.”
A recent report by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission into fairness in the UK found that two-thirds of lesbian, gay and transgender students have suffered homophobic bullying and 17% have received death threats. Nearly half of secondary school teachers in England say homophobic bullying is common and only one in six believe their school is very active in promoting the rights of gay pupils.
“Every school celebrates Black History Month. Why don’t they all celebrate LGBT History Month?” says Barnes. “My dream is to take this celebration into every school and make it a statutory requirement of the curriculum.”