UK: Stonewall unapologetic over Scottish cardinal's 'bigot of the year' award
Reposted from The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/02/stonewall-unrepentant-cardinal-bigot-award?INTCMP=SRCH
Gay rights group says it will retain category in next year's awards, after criticism from politicians and Catholic church
The gay rights group Stonewall has refused to back down after it provoked a furious reaction by naming the Scottish Catholic leader Cardinal Keith O'Brien as its "bigot of the year".
The Catholic church condemned the award as an attempt by Stonewall to vilify its critics. Scotland's first minister, Alex Salmond, and the Scottish Tory leader, Ruth Davidson, urged the campaign group to drop the category entirely, arguing that branding people "bigots" was counterproductive.
Davidson, who won Stonewall's politician of the year award at the same event on Thursday night, said equalities campaigners ought to be seen to use "generosity, tolerance and love" to promote their cause.
Salmond said Stonewall was "clearly wrong" to describe the cardinal as a bigot, and added: "Personal insults are not conducive to a proper and dignified debate on the important issue of equality in Scotland."
Two of Stonewall's most prominent award sponsors, the banks Barclay and Coutts, have threatened to withdraw their support if the bigot category is not dropped at next year's event.
But Stonewall said its 10,000 members had voted "decisively" to give the title to O'Brien after he described gay marriage as a "grotesque subversion" of the traditions of marriage and likened it to slavery. The cardinal called it an "aberration" and claimed it might clear the way for polygamous marriages and would cause "further degeneration of society into immorality".
A spokesman for the group said it was "incredibly important" that it challenged people who made "gratuitously offensive comments" about gay people. The bigot award "is definitely going to happen next year. No doubt about it," he said.
The Scottish Catholic church urged the Scottish government and both banks to stop funding Stonewall and its awards. "Stonewall and others have promoted terms like 'bigot' and 'homophobe' relentlessly in order to intimidate and vilify anyone who dares oppose their agenda," a church spokesman said.
"Numerous public bodies give sizeable financial donations to Stonewall, including the Scottish government. These intolerant and intimidatory tactics should mean that this funding is now questioned and examined as a matter of urgency."
Scottish ministers have committed £300,000 for a three-year project run by Stonewall Scotland to improve equalities policies for lesbian and gay people in the public sector.
Salmond has resisted pressure from the cardinal to drop plans to legalise same-sex marriage, and the new equalities measures are due to be passed by the Scottish parliament next year.
The Scottish government rejected the church's demands to stop funding Stonewall. It said it remained committed to the equalities project, but added: "Using language that is disrespectful or discourteous is potentially counterproductive to the cause of equality."
Stonewall said the award was entirely justified since O'Brien had been consistently abusive and intolerant about gay marriage. Colin Macfarlane, the director of Stonewall Scotland, said the cardinal had "gone well beyond [a] decent level of public discourse".
He told BBC Radio Scotland: "The people that were nominated for bigot of the year have this year called gay people Nazis, they have compared them to bestialists and to paedophiles, and one of the nominees suggested that gay people should be put in front of a firing squad and shot dead.
"So I think what we are doing is highlighting the very cruel, very nasty, very pernicious language that is being used by some people – and in particular by the cardinal, who won."
Stonewall's stance was supported by another senior religious figure, Giles Fraser, who resigned as canon chancellor at St Paul's Cathedral after the Church of England sought to evict Occupy movement campers from its precincts. As he accepted his "hero of the year' award from Stonewall on Thursday, Fraser said he was ashamed that so many candidates for the bigot award were religious leaders.
He said it was essential that supporters of gay equality found the courage to speak out. "The thing we have to be afraid of is this fear. It's fear that keeps people quiet; it's fear that turns people into bigots," he said.
Previous winners of the bigot award include the Daily Mail columnists Melanie Philips and Jan Moir; the Tory MP Chris Grayling; and Iris Robinson, a DUP member of the Northern Ireland assembly.