1997 April

Gays in Silent Protest at Southwark Cathedral

60 Bishops Challenged over Anglican Homophobia

Seven members of the gay rights group OutRage! staged a silent protest “against Anglican support for antigay discrimination” during Morning Eucharist at Southwark Cathedral today at 11 a.m.. The protest was directed at 60 leading Anglican primates from around the world, who were attending the service whilst in London for a fortnight to plan the 1998 Lambeth Conference.

Ten minutes after the service began, gay campaigners walked up to the altar of the cathedral and held up placards with the words:

“Lambeth 1998 Must Support Gay Equality”,
“Drop Church Ban on Gay Parents”,
and “Stop Sacking Gay Clergy”.

They knelt down in front of the altar in silence as the Provost and Verger attempted to remonstrate with them. After five minutes, Alastair Williams of OutRage! stood up and told the congregation that it was time the Anglican Church embraced homosexual equality. All the protesters then filed slowly out of the cathedral via the central nave.

“We are appalled by Anglican endorsement of discrimination against gay people and by the bishops’ refusal to put homosexual human rights on the agenda of the 1998 Lambeth Conference”, said Mr. Williams. “We want the Church to renounce its homophobia and the Lambeth Conference to give its backing to gay equality.

“The Anglican Church speaks out against racism: but it is shamefully silent about the worldwide violation of gay civil rights. The 1998 international conference must not ignore the prejudice and discrimination that blight the lives of lesbians and gay men.

“The Church of England actively discriminates against homosexuals. Clergy in loving gay relationships live in fear of dismissal. Bishops in the House of Lords refuse to vote for an equal age of consent for gay men. And the Church of England Children’s Society bans gay foster carers”, said Mr. Williams.

The Very Rev. Colin Slee said afterwards that he was “saddened” that the protesters had felt it necessary to interrupt an act of worship. “By disturbing worship in this way they are in danger of losing the understanding and sympathy of people who might otherwise listen.”

Within a week of this protest, the organisers of the Lambeth Conference wrote to the Church Times, announcing that homosexual issues will be on next year’s agenda. — Proof that direct action works!

Gays invade Lambeth Palace

Archbishop Carey and 16 Bishops Confronted

Ten members of OutRage! scaled the walls of Lambeth Palace today at noon, confronting Archbishop George Carey and sixteen leading Anglican primates from around the world who were meeting at the Palace to plan the 1998 Lambeth Conference.

Brandishing placards with the words “STOP CRUCIFYING QUEERS”, they were protesting against Archbishop Carey’s prerecorded comments on ITV/Meridian Television which were being broadcast simultaneously, where he ruled out any rôle in the Church for clergy in homosexual relationships. (About a quarter of Anglican priests in Britain are believed to be gay, and most of these are sexually active.) Dr. Carey also said that the Church would never endorse same-sex marriage.

Reverting to a hardline position, Archbishop Carey said there were only two options for Christian: marriage or celibacy. This view endorses the continuing victimisation of gay people, both in the Church and in the wider society, says OutRage!.

The protest was also directed against Dr. Carey’s insistence that the issues of gay clergy and homosexual human rights will not be on the agenda of the 1998 Lambeth Conference: a worldwide gathering of the Anglican Church, which takes place every ten years.

Members of OutRage! remonstrated with George Carey for ten minutes, pointing out that, during the seven years since Carey became Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the internation Anglican community:

  • he has repeatedly refused to meet representatives of the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement;
  • gay priests in loving homosexual relationships have been forced out of the Church;
  • Anglican bishops in the House of Lords refused to vote for an equal age of consent for gay men;
  • the Church of England Children’s Society has banned lesbians and gay men from fostering;
  • Anglican churches are providing material support to antigay cults which preach that homosexuals are sick and need healing.

George Carey refused to respond to any of these charges.

Shortly after the OutRage! invasion of Lambeth Palace, church officials spent an estimated £ 100,000 on erecting a 12-foot security fence on top of the Palace walls. No wonder the church has been in financial crisis!

Election Protest in Michael Portillo’s Constituency

“Portillo screws queer soldiers” banner in Parliament Square
Image Copyright: Steve Mayes, 1997

There were lively exchanges between gay rights protesters, shoppers, and police when campaigners against the ban on homosexuals in the Armed Forces took their protest to the constituency of the Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Portillo, today in Southgate High Street.

There were only a handful of negative reactions from local people. Most said they supported the right of gays to serve in the military. Some showed surprise on being told that Portillo was the person responsible for enforcing the ban.

Nicholas Luard, the Referendum Party candidate for Enfield-Southgate and an ex-SAS officer was canvassing at the same time as OutRage!. He expressed his opposition to the ban, and condemned Portillo for dismissing gay soldiers.

Leafletting and speaking to local constituents, a dozen members of OutRage! succeeded in persuading many of them to vote against Michael Portillo, because of his rôle in enforcing the exclusion of lesbians and gay men from the military.

“In his capacity as Defence Secretary, Michael Portillo is responsible for witch-hunting homosexuals out of the armed forces, dismissing gay soldiers with exemplary service records”, said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!.

Campaigners erected a giant billboard in the High Street reading “Portillo Screws Queer Soldiers”, in protest at the way Michael Portillo’s ban on homosexuals is screwing up the lives of lesbian and gay service personnel. They also displayed placards saying “Scrap Portillo’s Ban on Gay Soldiers”.

“John Major has stated that being homosexual is no bar to serving as a Government Minister. Tony Banks, MP, pointed out last year that it’s inconsistent that a Secretary of State for Defence could be gay, but gay people are forbidden to serve in the armed forces”, said Peter Tatchell.

“Portillo not only enforces the military ban on homosexuals, he also voted against an equal age of consent”, added Marina Cronin.

A young gay man, 17-year-old Chris Morris, spoke to shoppers, explaining how Portillo’s endorsement of a discriminatory age of consent means that under-age homosexuals like himself can be arrested for consenting homosexual relationships.

“Michael Portillo is every gay man’s favourite homophobe. He is no friend to the gay community. We’re targetting him because he supports antigay discrimination”, said Ms. Cronin.

“Since Michael Portillo refuses to support homosexual human rights, we don’t think he’s fit to be an MP. We hope the people of Enfield-Southgate will vote him out of office on May 1st”, she concluded.

Less than two weeks after this protest, the electorate of Enfield-Southgate did vote Michael Portillo out of office, giving the out gay candidate, Stephen Twigg, a resounding majority. — Proof that direct action works!