Thursday, May 14, 2009

Homophobic Bigots to descend on Scotland

This Sunday sees the International Day Against Homophobia and events are planned across the UK to raise awareness of those who are fighting against persecution of the LGBT community across the world and of the problems this can cause.

You wonder what exactly has been achieved in Iraq when you read reports of the brutal torture and murder of gay men.

Just in case you were thinking that we're all cool about gay people these days and nobody is horrible to them in the UK, have a look at this speech Nick Clegg gave to Stonewall last year in which he highlighted the shocking information that:

"Two thirds of young gay people have experienced homophobic bullying at school. And almost one third say that an adult in the school environment is responsible for homophobic incidents."

I am incredibly proud to be in a party where the leader is willing to publicly talk about these issues and urge action to stop such bullying.

My daughter is only in Primary 5 and already she has reported to me that some people at her school don't think being gay is very good and are using homophobic insults - at the age of 9. She instinctively finds that pretty repulsive and has challenged the people who use them.

She's been to as many civil partnerships in her life as she has been to weddings and takes the very pragmatic view that if people love each other they should be left in peace to be together. She's had the experience of having a diverse and liberal community of friends around her all her life and just accepts people as they are. If kids in schools are coming out with homophobic nonsense at 9, then that tells me that something needs to be done when they're much younger to nip those ideas in the bud.

The reason I'm writing about this today is because I have been absolutely sickened by this flier which has been put out by an American pastor who runs a website full of hatred and bigotry called, and I'm not kidding, It makes me wince just typing those words. His followers are the sort of people who demonstrate at the funerals of people who have died of AIDS in the US. How can people put grieving relatives through even more trauma?

You'll see from the flier that this man, who has been banned from the UK, is despatching some of his hate fuelled mates to picket the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland when it discusses Queen's Cross Church's decision to appoint Scott Rennie as Minister because he is openly gay on 23 May. Not only do these people intend to protest in Edinburgh, but they also intend to picket Scott's church in Aberdeen the day after.

I am literally shaken that these thoroughly evil (and, yes, I do mean that) bigots are travelling thousands of miles to persecute my friend, so it's personal for me, but I would hope that good people everywhere would want to make a stand against such a show of bile and pure nastiness. If the Westboro material had the language relating to sexual orientation replaced with words relating to gender or race, they would be done for inciting hatred.

I think one way to deal with those people if they are allowed to stage their protest is to stand peacefully, quietly and with dignity against them to show them that Scotland is a tolerant, diverse and civilised nation.

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