Bigot of the Year

Cardinal Keith O'Brien on gay marriage like slaveryStonewall has been holding a “Bigot of the Year” award, decided by popular vote, for six years. This year, unsurprisingly, the voters chose Cardinal Keith O’Brien.

Ed West in the Telegraph suggested:

Wouldn’t it be nice if Stonewall and other SSM supporters agreed to stop using such words, and in return opponents agreed to drop the dubious “slavery” or “Nazi” analogies.

In that West has it muddled. It has to happen the other way round. Someday, maybe, the Bigot of the Year award will be dropped because there won’t be enough write-in nominations because nobody’s publicly said or done anything bigoted.

On Sunday 4th November, BBC Sunday Morning Live is to debate “Is Stonewall’s ‘bigot of the year’ award inappropriate?” (You can register and vote Yes or No.)

In December 2009, the BBC’s Have Your Say staged an online debate on the question “Should homosexuals face execution?” After massive protest, the BBC changed the title of the debate to “Should Uganda debate gay execution?” but did not apologise for or retract the idea that putting people to death for their sexual orientation could be a matter for debate rather than condemnation.

Will Sunday Morning Live debate whether it’s “appropriate” for the BBC to allow a platform for bigots to discuss whether gay people should be killed or imprisoned for life?

Cardinal O’Brien claimed that politicians who supported lifting the ban on same-sex marriage should be derided.

Instead, their attempt to redefine reality is given a polite hearing, their madness is indulged. Their proposal represents a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right.

He went on to claim that the children of same-sex couples won’t have the “stability and well-being” provided by being brought up by a mother and father, that this

cannot be provided by a same-sex couple, however well-intentioned they may be.

And he said:

Imagine for a moment that the Government had decided to legalise slavery but assured us that “no one will be forced to keep a slave”.

Would such worthless assurances calm our fury? Would they justify dismantling a fundamental human right? Or would they simply amount to weasel words masking a great wrong?

Stonewall has been holding its annual Award Ceremony, in which Bigot of the Year and Hero of the Year are nominated by write-in and then voted on by Stonewall supporters, since 2006. (In 2006 their write-in category was “Bully of the Year”, and it was won by Chris Moyles, for saying of a ringtone “I don’t want that one, it’s gay” on air.)

In six years, Bigot of the Year has been awarded to a bishop, two MPs, two Daily Mail journalists, and a cardinal.

In 2007, the Bigot of the Year award went to Anthony Priddis, the current Bishop of Hereford, for bullying a gay applicant for a job as a Church of England youth leader. The man had spontaneously agreed that he would be celibate for the duration of the job, but had been honest about his sexual orientation. Priddis spent two hours harassing the man about his promise of celibacy, and finally sent him away, denying him the job, on the grounds that Priddis was sure the gay man would have sex at some point during his employment.

He told the tribunal that the bishop had asked him about a previous sexual relationship during a two-hour meeting which left him embarrassed and humiliated.

In 2008, the Bigot of the Year award went to Iris Robinson, the DUP politician who told the Northern Ireland Grand Committee in a discussion on age of consent

“There can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children. There must be sufficient confidence that the community has the best possible protection against such perverts.”

(Challenged on this, Iris Robinson claimed she had said that child abuse was worse than “homosexuality and sodomy”, but Hansard politely confirmed that their record was correct: Robinson had in fact claimed homosexuality and sodomy was worse than raping children.) A few weeks earlier she had reacted on Radio Ulster to the news of a vicious attack by gay-bashers that had left their victim hospitalised with broken bones:

“I have a very lovely psychiatrist who works with me in my offices and his Christian background is that he tries to help homosexuals trying to turn away from what they are engaged in. And I have met people who have turned around to become heterosexual.”

In 2009, the Bigot of the Year went to two peopleFather John Owen, the communications officer for the archdiocese of Cardiff and a Catholic chaplain at Cardiff University, who had said on BBC One’s Big Questions that most child abuse is carried out by gay men, and who was apparently the front runner until Jan Moir published her infamous article claiming that Stephen Gately’s death should be treated as suspicious because he was gay.

In 2010, the Bigot of the Year award went to Chris Grayling, then Minister of State for Work and Pensions, for saying in March 2010 when he was Shadow Home Secretary

“I personally always took the view that, if you look at the case of should a Christian hotel owner have the right to exclude a gay couple from a hotel, I took the view that if it’s a question of somebody who’s doing a B&B in their own home, that individual should have the right to decide who does and who doesn’t come into their own home.”

This was in the specific context of Christian B&B owners who wanted to have the right to turn away gay couples, but it suggests a wider facility for discrimination – racist B&B owners being able to turn away black guests, and so on.

In 2011, the Bigot of the Year award went to Melanie Phillips for a particularly nasty Daily Mail article in which she claimed that the “gay lobby” were trying to “brainwash children” in order to make homosexuality mandatory:

“And it’s all part of the ruthless campaign by the gay rights lobby to destroy the very ­concept of normal sexual behaviour.

“Not so long ago, an epic political battle raged over teaching children that ­homosexuality was normal. The fight over Section 28, as it became known, resulted in the repeal of the legal requirement on schools not to promote homosexuality.

“As the old joke has it, what was once impermissible first becomes tolerated and then becomes mandatory.”

Asked by Pink News if she’d like to respond to their readers, Phillips reacted:

“I’m sorry if what I wrote has offended some of your readers. You tell me that they may regard it as ‘over the top’. In fact, that is how I would describe some of the reaction to what I wrote.”

In 2012, Cardinal Keith O’Brien not only made grotesque comments about same-sex couples who marry, he also in late 2011 instigated a postcard campaign:

In 2011, Cardinal O’Brien had the Catholic Parliamentary Office send 200,000 postcards, pre-printed with a message against gay marriage, one for every mass-going Catholic to sign, to every parish in Scotland. They got 28,000 of them back: about 170,000 Catholics ignored them. Thirty-six per cent of the total responses to the equal marriage consultation in Scotland are those postcards.

When the consulation confirmed what repeated surveys and polls had found, that two-thirds of Scots favour a change in the law allowing same-sex couples to marry, O’Brien fulminated that the postcard-count hadn’t been allowed to swing the consultation and called for a referendum, which (my guess) he would have hoped to “win” by campaign techniques used by anti-gay Christian organisations in the US.

Bigot of the Year, like Hero of the Year, is awarded by write-in nomination and popular vote. Bigot of the Year expresses the frustration and powerlessness that people feel when confronted by hateful power. Granted the only power a Daily Mail journalist has is to spread hateful words – still, words can hurt. Jan Moir and Melanie Phillips went out of their way to be hateful and hurtful to gay people because these nasty articles made good copy, would sell the paper at the price of hurting what they thought of as an inconsiderable minority.

Iris Robinson’s and Chris Grayling’s political careers were not harmed by expressing anti-gay bigotry: the only power an ordinary person would have over either of them would be as their constituents: Grayling was re-elected and Robinson lost her post, but not for saying that gay men should be “cured” to escape gay-bashing.

Nothing whatsoever happened to the Right Reverend Anthony Priddis: he is still Bishop of Hereford.

Nothing whatsoever will happen to Cardinal Keith O’Brien for being named Bigot of the Year. He will still be Cardinal: he will still campaign against people having the same right to get married regardless of their sexual orientation.

All that happened, any year, was that the people who had been nominated were made aware – sometimes quite publicly – just what their comments made them look like to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people who heard them.

According to report, Barclays Bank and Coutts, both sponsors of the Stonewall Awards, have decided to withdraw unless the Bigot of the Year award is silenced:

“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.”

“Coutts are sponsors only of Stonewall’s Writer of the Year Award and have in no way been involved in the judging or support of the Bigot of the Year category.

“We have advised Stonewall that we will be withdrawing our support of the awards unless they remove this category.”

In other words, these two banks would greatly prefer that if LGBT people feel hurt, or notice other people being bigoted, they should shut up. Absolutely they should not be allowed to say very loudly and so publicly that this kind of hateful speech is bigoted speech.

Nobody likes being called a bigot. What usually happens when the powerful are called bigots is that they claim this is insulting and hateful (ignoring their own insulting and hateful language or actions that led to their being called bigots) and they try to turn the argument, to become an argument over whether it was right to call them bigots, rather than whether it could ever be right to use such bigoted language.

Andrew Brown claims that naming people like Cardinal O’Brien bigots “weakens” the word:

The same thing may be happening to the word “bigot”. By branding all opponents of gay marriage “bigots”, Stonewall has gone too far. There is a perfectly reasonable case to be made against the measure, by people who are generally in favour of equality. On balance, and in general, I think it’s wrong. None the less, civil partnerships were invented in order to provide all of the practical benefits of marriage without the name. If that was a distinction worth preserving six years ago, it’s reasonable to ask what has changed since then. But by attacking the character of opponents rather than their arguments, Stonewall is preaching only to the converted. It really does matter to a civilised society that we treat arguments on their merits, and do not judge them according to their source.

Andrew Brown ignores everything Cardinal O’Brien has said about same-sex marriage (nor was O’Brien a supporter of civil partnerships – the Cardinal preached his New Year sermon against the evils of civil partnership in January 2006) and elides over the point that the Stonewall Award does not go to “opponents of gay marriage” in general, but to one specific person who has said or done horrible things.

I didn’t nominate or vote in the Stonewall Awards. But if Cardinal O’Brien was not silenced for calling same-sex marriage “grotesque”, why should anyone be silenced for pointing out that makes him a bigot?

Update, 3rd November

While Cardinal Keith O’Brien will try to claim he is speaking for the majority of Scots, the Herald Society Campaigner of the Year was won by the Equality Network for their Equal Marriage campaign.


Filed under In The Media, LGBT Equality

2 responses to “Bigot of the Year

  1. |I’d like to suggest that apart from Keith himself, the award should be shared with his imaginary friend whom art in heaven.

  2. In answer to your last question: because he was correct and those claiming he is a bigot are incorrect. He is unavoidably corect I’m afraid. ‘Grotesque’ is a particularly strong word, but that’s exactly what’s needed when moderate language is ignored and a perfectly reasonable and sane justification for an argument is ignored and disparaged.

    Horray for Cardinal O’Brien I say!

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