Gay Christians have been presented with an award for their work in combating homophobia.
The award was given to the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) following their support for a controversial advert which appeared in the Independent newspaper, challenging faith-based homophobia.
Introducing the award Kevin Boyle a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the Gay Police Association (GPA) said that Richard Kirker, chief executive of the LGCM, had first come to his attention in June 2000 when he was involved in a police investigation into homophobic attacks against the Rev Follett, the Vicar of Knightsbridge.
At the time the investigation attracted huge media interest. Kevin stated that whilst many in the church had condemned the victim because of his sexual orientation, Richard Kirker had gone on record to urge the Bishop of London not to tolerate the homophobic witch-hunt. Richard Kirker had also supported the police investigation and had supported the Rev Follett throughout the protracted enquiry.
He went on to praise Richard Kirker for the support that he and members of the LGCM had offered the GPA in response to the campaign organised by some Evangelical and Fundamentalist groups who had opposed the contents of the GPA advertisement. Rev Kirker at the time had described the advertisement as “courageous and wholly justifiable in exposing the scourge of religiously motivated homophobia”. He had also made contact with the Home Office, the Metropolitan Police and the Advertising Standards Agency, defending the actions of the GPA. As a result of the response to the GPA advertisement, in February 2007 LGCM hosted the very first national conference on Faith, Homophobia and Human Rights which was supported by 50 other organisations.
Responding to the Award Richard Kirker said the award was a "remarkable honour" and a tribute to LGCM’s work”. He said his father had been a Metropolitan police officer and he thanked his mother for the support she had given him during all his time at LGCM.
Speaking on the Government’s recently announced proposal to introduce new legislation to make it a crime to incite hatred against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people, Rev Kirker stated: that some in the Church of England and some of the other more significant faith traditions were trying to undermine the values of tolerance and respect to which he believed that all in our society should be committed – irrespective of their faith or beliefs.
He went on to say that it was in this context that the work that Deputy Chief Constable (DCC) Mike Cunningham of Lancashire Police was doing on behalf of ACPO (Association of Chief Police Officers) was so important. He said that, “Your recommendation that religious views should be expressed “in an appropriate fashion” and “does not confer a right to express those beliefs … in a manner that amounts to discrimination against others” will, I hope help bring to an end the acceptability of religiously expressed homophobia across the whole police service.
The award was made at the GPA's 17th Annual Dinner in Brighton.