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article image‘Bigot of the Year’ title sparks furious row in Scotland

By Andrew John     Nov 2, 2012 in World
A furious row involving the Catholic Church, the gay-rights organization Stonewall and the Scottish government has erupted after the leader of Catholics in the country was named Bigot of the Year in an awards ceremony.
Now, the First Minister, Alex Salmond, has stepped into the row, saying that Stonewall should not have given Cardinal Keith O’Brien the title.
O’Brien is just one Catholic prelate who has steadfastly opposed equality for gay people. His latest campaign has been against marriage equality for same-gender partners.
Salmond told the BBC: “Stonewall were clearly wrong to describe Scotland’s cardinal in these terms, and in any case should reflect on whether pejorative titles like this do anything to enhance their cause.
“Personal insults are not conducive to a proper and dignified debate on the important issue of equality in Scotland.”
Salmond’s intervention comes a day after the leader of the Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament, Ruth Davidson, was booed off the stage at the Stonewall awards in London last night.
Davidson – Scotland’s first out lesbian MSP (Member of the Scottish Parliament) – was giving her acceptance speech after being named Stonewall’s Politician of the Year.
“During her acceptance speech, Ms Davidson said it was wrong to use the term ‘bigot’ and that it was important to ‘respect people who have a different view’,” reports Pink News.
Ben Summerskill, Stonewall’s chief executive, co-hosted the ceremony with the TV presenter Gok Wan. He “defended the charity’s bigot category during the ceremony and subsequently received a standing ovation”, Pink News reports.
“Afterwards, Mr Summerskill told ‘Ruth is entitled to her view[.] Stonewall works with politicians from all parties, which is the key to our success, in spite of pressure from some[.] I’m sure as leader of the Scottish Conservatives Ruth is used to being in a small minority.”
Two corporate sponsors – Barclays Bank and Coutts Bank – threatened to withdraw their support earlier this week over Stonewall’s inclusion of a Bigot of the Year category in its annual awards, in spite of the fact that the award has been in place for some years.
Summerskill said: “I am someone who uses language quite carefully, as does Stonewall. And we think it is appropriate, while there still is bigotry, to be prepared to highlight it.”
Declare war
Keith O’Brien got the nomination for the Bigot of the Year award in September. At the time, Stonewall wrote on its website:
The five nominees for Bigot of the Year include Cardinal Keith O’Brien, who has led a vitriolic campaign against equality in Scotland. Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity Minister, Simon Lokodo, is also nominated for his role in the repression of his country’s 2.1 million gay people […]
Keith O’Brien has been a prominent opponent of marriage equality and made headlines with deeply offensive comments about same-sex couples. He’s stated that same-sex relationships are “harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing” and compared equal marriage to slavery and child abuse. Under his leadership the Catholic Church in Scotland has pledged to “declare war” on marriage equality and committed an additional £100,000 for the fight.
In an article in the Daily Telegraph in March this year, O’Brien wrote:
Redefining marriage will have huge implications for what is taught in our schools, and for wider society. It will redefine society since the institution of marriage is one of the fundamental building blocks of society. The repercussions of enacting same-sex marriage into law will be immense.
But can we simply redefine terms at a whim? Can a word whose meaning has been clearly understood in every society throughout history suddenly be changed to mean something else?
If same-sex marriage is enacted into law what will happen to the teacher who wants to tell pupils that marriage can only mean – and has only ever meant – the union of a man and a woman?
Will that teacher’s right to hold and teach this view be respected or will it be removed? Will both teacher and pupils simply become the next victims of the tyranny of tolerance, heretics, whose dissent from state-imposed orthodoxy must be crushed at all costs?
Previous winners of the award include Daily Mail columnists Melanie Phillips and Jan Moir, Tory MP Chris Grayling, who is the current Justice Secretary, and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) Iris Robinson.
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