OutRage! – the UK gay rights organisation – said it would be “entirely justified” to out any unionist politician in the wake of remarks by DUP MP Iris Robinson.
David Allison, a spokesperson for OutRage!, condemned the DUP for its “Bible-belt politics” when it came to gay issues.
“We have always supported the protection of people’s privacy who lead a double life, where they are gay but maybe still have a family. However in circumstances where you are a member of a political party which openly espouses homophobia than we think it is entirely justifiable that members of that party be outed.
“That is certainly so with the DUP. It’s already happened to them before and they still have learned no lessons,” he said.
Allison was referring to a scandal that rocked the DUP three years ago when one of its rising stars, Paul Berry, was accused of having had gay sex with a male masseur at a Belfast hotel.
The outing of Agriculture Minister Nick Brown by the threat of tabloid kiss-and-tell relevations about his private life has heen condemned by OutRage!.
“There is no public interest justification for Nick Brown being pressured to disclose his sexuality”, said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!.
“He is not a hypocrite or a homophobe. His public pronouncements on gay issues are consistent with his private behaviour. In the absence of hypocrisy, the outing of Nick Brown is totally indefensible.
“On the three major gay civil rights issues –the age of consent, military service and Section 28– Nick Brown voted in favour of gay equality.
“The Prime Minister is to be applauded for standing by his man. Nick Brown should be judged on his ability to do his job, not on his sexual orientation. Tony Blair has reconfirmed that being gay is no bar to Ministerial office. This will, hopefully, encourage more MPs to come out.
“Nine MPs are now out, but more than 30 are still hiding their homosexuality and could be vulnerable to similar kiss-and-tell exposure.
“These MPs belong to all three main parties. Many are married. Some hold high-level parliamentary and government positions. Because of their secretive double-life and resort to anonymous casual sex, they are easy targets for tabloid exposure and blackmail.
“It would be better for everyone –the MPs, their families and the political process– if closeted MPs came out. Being open about their sexuality would avoid a repeat of the undignified exposure experienced by Ron Davies, Peter Mandelson and Nick Brown.”
Six MPs have voluntarily came out, and three others have been outed or pressured to come out by media – Nick Brown being the latest.
This brings the total of identified gay MPs to nine. Britain now has more publicly known homosexual MPs than any other country in the world.
OutRage! does not support the outing of MPs unless they are hypocritical or homophobic. Those who merely hide their homosexuality should not be forced out. But if MPs publicly bash the gay community and vote for antigay discrimination, outing is justified.
When the Sunday Mirror last year outed Eastenders heart-throb, Michael French, there was no dispproval or rebuke from the rest of the media. Not a single newspaper denounced outing or defended French’s right to privacy.
This silence contrasts sharply with the media’s universal, violent condemnation of outing in 1994, when OutRage! named 10 homophobic Bishops at the General Synod of the Church of England and urged them to “Tell The Truth”.
The outing of Michael French by the Sunday Mirror was homophobic and sensationalist, exposing his sexual orientation in a way that suggested gayness was sordid and shameful.
OutRage!’s naming of the 10 Bishops had entirely different motives. It was not an attack anyone’s homosexuality. The aim was to expose church hypocrisy and defend the homosexual community against Bishops who endorse antigay discrimination. The Bishops’ homophobia and double standards impacted on the lives of other people, and were therefore matters of legitimate public interest.
Journalists had other ideas. The media furore over OutRage!’s outing campaign went ballistic not long afterwards. In January 1995, I delivered a “private and confidential” letter to the then Bishop of London, Dr. David Hope (now Archbishop of York), urging him to “come out”. We later had an amicable meeting and exchange of letters. There were no threats or ultimata from me. The idea was to persuade the Bishop that coming out was the right thing to do.
Suddenly, three months later, in March 1995, the Bishop called a press conference and outed himself, saying his sexuality was a “grey area”. Most of the media –including the Guardian, Times and Mail– reported that Dr. Hope had been “outed” by OutRage!. He hadn’t. We had no intention of outing him. If we had wanted to expose his sexuality, we would have done so the previous November when we named the other 10 Bishops. This very obvious point was never mentioned by the journalistic pack.
At his press conference, the Bishop alleged that he had been forced to make his confession by “intimidatory” pressure from OutRage!. This ridiculous allegation was reported, even though journalists saw the friendly correspondence between myself and the Bishop, which clearly suggested otherwise.
A month later, when probed by Lesley White of the Sunday Times, Dr. Hope changed his story. He admitted that he went public not in response to my letter, but following an approach from a Telegraph reporter who gave him the impression he was about to be exposed by OutRage!. We had no such plans. David Hope was, it seems, bounced into coming out by a journalist who gave him false information.
A shrewd politician, the Bishop used his press conference to present himself as a persecuted innocent. Although Church lawyers agreed my letter was not blackmail, Dr. Hope allowed journalists to portray it as such without rebuke.
The media accepted the Bishop’s version of events without asking a single critical question. There was praise for his “candour” (Times) and “extraordinary openness” (Telegraph). Yet by even the most elastic definition, describing his sexuality as a “grey area” was neither candid nor open.
There are only three possible sexual orientations, and grey isn’t one of them. Instead of hiding behind euphemisms, why didn’t the Bishop practise the honesty he preaches by saying whether he was gay, straight or bisexual? And why did no journalist press him on this point?
Grey is, of course, a mixture of black and white. Some people therefore interpreted the Bishop’s statement as a roundabout admission that his sexuality is a mixture of heterosexual and homosexual. Such an interpretation was not, alas, even once mentioned in any of the media coverage.
This illustrates the way everything Dr. Hope said was taken at face value by the press. There was no querying of his carefully crafted statement that he had “sought” to lead a “single, celibate life”. What one seeks to do and what one actually does are, as we all know, not necessarily the same thing. It is notable that he did not say: “I have never had sex with a man”.
And why, if the Bishop had nothing to hide, did his lawyer demand to know what information I had about his personal life? Such questions should have been asked by journalists, but they weren’t.
Instead, the media sought to demonise myself and undermine OutRage!’s credibility. Referring back to our naming of the 10 Bishops at the General Synod in November 1994, newspapers claimed we had admitted there was “no firm evidence” (Telegraph) and that the names were “based on rumour” (Guardian). What OutRage! actually said was the exact opposite. Our statement at the time was categoric: “These names are not based on gossip or rumour, but come from reliable, credible sources within the Church”. The press also failed to report the pertinent fact that none of the 10 Bishops denied being gay, and only one denied having gay sex.
OutRage! was vilified by the media with a savagery normally reserved for car-bombers and child-murderers. We were condemned as “thugs”, “gangsters”, “mafia” and “extortionists”. Our naming of hypocritical, homophobic Bishops was, according to the Mail, “homosexual terrorism” and “tactics of terror”. The Telegraph compared us to the Nazis, describing OutRage! as “fascistic” and “stormtroopers”.
Predictably, there was no similar outcry when, shortly beforehand, the People outed 12 gay vicars and the News of the World outed the Bishop of Durham. Nor did the press express a jot of concern about the Church-endorsed discrimination that damages the lives of lesbians and gays.
Much of the abuse was personal. The Sunday Times branded me “the enemy within” and “public enemy number one”. I was, according to the Evening Standard, “pure poison”. Others expressed violent sexual fantasies. “Tatchell … should be castrated”, wrote Sir Bernard Ingham in the Express.
After denouncing outing as a “brutality that is literally fascistic” and “an act of fascist terrorism”, Allan Massie warned in the Telegraph that I might be the target of an assassin which, he added, “many might think quite an honourable part to play”.
Massie’s ‘invitation’ to murder was helped when television news bulletins showed a close-up of my letter to Dr. Hope, with my address and telephone number clearly visible. The result: weeks of death threats, hate mail and attacks on my home. In addition, I was assaulted a dozen times in the street by hysterical homophobes who had been evidently influenced by the lurid, inflammatory coverage in the tabloids and broadsheets.
Getting myself accurately quoted was almost impossible. Journalists interviewed me with a predetermined news slant: outing was evil and so was I. To fit their prejudgement, they were not averse to rewriting quotes. While most newspapers liberally rephrased what I’d said, the Times printed total untruths. I did not comment on the coming out of Bishops Hope and Rawcliffe (Rawcliffe came out of his own free will in March 1995) with the words “Two down, three to go”. Nor did I say “I want to be a martyr”, or that my “ambition is to be thrown into prison for the gay cause”. The Times refused to publish a letter from me refuting these falsehoods. Letters correcting misrepresentations were also rejected by the Observer and Independent.
The BBC responded to the lynch-mob hysteria by banning live interviews with myself and other members of OutRage!. This meant we were often unable to defend ourselves against gross misrepresentation. The BBC radio show, Call Nick Ross, was a typical example. It devoted a whole programme to the outing controversey without allowing OutRage! any opportunity to defend itself against the distortions peddled by our critics. Despite being condemned by Liberty, the anti-censorship lobby Article 19, and the National Union of Journalists, this BBC ban received no newspaper, radio or television coverage.
One of the greatest travesties was the way the media gave the impression that OutRage! supports indiscriminate outing. We don’t. We only endorse the outing of hypocrites and homophobes who attack the gay community. This was rarely quoted. OutRage! would never out private individuals. We only out public figures if they condemn gay people and support the denial of gay human rights. That’s why we didn’t expose Michael Barrymore. He hadn’t harmed the gay community.
The Bishops are different. They demand honesty of others, yet they aren’t honest about their own gayness. Worse, they condemn homosexuality and advocate discriminatory laws.
Like most Anglican leaders, Dr. Hope opposes an equal age of consent for gay men, supports the ban on gay foster parents by the Children’s Society, endorses the sacking of clergy in loving gay relationships, and colludes with religious cults that attempt to “cure” gay people. His approval of discrimination, which is crucial to understanding our campaign, got precisely one column inch in one newspaper.
Equally unreported was the success of outing. Within a month of OutRage! naming the 10 Bishops, Anglican leaders began their first serious dialogue with the gay community and issued one of their strongest ever condemnations of antigay discrimination. A little later, Bishop Derek Rawcliffe voluntarily came out and the world conference of Anglican primates called on the Church to rethink its policy on homosexuality. Then the Archbishop of Canterbury, who for five years had refused to say a word about gay issues, spoke out against homophobia for the first time. To cap it off, the Bishop’s Sexuality Group was set up and is now consulting with lesbian and gay organisations. Because the media took a partisan stand against outing, these positive achievements were never reported. The much-vaunted freedom of press apparently includes freedom to suppress the truth and distort the facts.
In March 1995, the then Bishop of London, Dr. David Hope, called an impromptu press conference where he announced that his sexuality was a “grey area”. He claimed that he had been forced to make this announcement because he was being pressured and intimidated by Peter Tatchell of the gay rights group OutRage!, who had written to him in December 1994, urging him to be open and honest about his sexuality.
Later, however, a very different story emerged. In an April 1995 interview with the Sunday Times journalist, Lesley White, the Bishop of London admitted that he did not declare his sexuality in response to the OutRage! letter. He had, after all, received our letter two months prior to his decision to go public. What precipitated the Bishop’s sudden coming out was an approach from Clifford Longley, the Religious Affairs correspondent of the Daily Telegraph. Dr. Hope says that Clifford Longley gave him the impression that he was going to be exposed by OutRage! In fact, we had no plans to out the Bishop of London. Dr. Hope was effectively bounced into coming out by a journalist who gave him false information.
If we had wanted to reveal Dr. Hope’s sexuality, we would have done so last November at General Synod when we named the other 10 Bishops. We didn’t out him because we felt that it would be far more effective if Dr. Hope could be persuaded to come out of his own free will.
The final straw for Dr. Hope was possibly an article in the Independent On Sunday on 12 March, the day before he publicly declared his sexuality. Entitled “Why Gays Are Called To The Church”, this article by Andrew Brown referred to the large number of gay clergy in the London diocese. In the next sentence it cited the Bishop of London and his past rôle in running St Stephen’s House, Oxford, which it described as “the campest of all theological colleges, where he was known as Ena the Cruel”. The innuendo and insinuation was obvious. It seems the Bishop decided to jump before he was pushed.
The following extract from an article in the “Telegraph” dated 14-March-1995 by Clifford Longley and Ben Fenton serves to illustrate. –
Dr. David Hope said he had been “deeply distressed” by the group’s activities and the apparent attempt by Mr. Peter Tatchell, a spokesman, to persuade him to admit to being homosexual.
He described the atmosphere that had oppressed him since Mr. Tatchell had suggested three months ago that the group had detailed information about his personal life as “seriously intimidatory”.
The 54-year-old bishop denied absolutely that he was homosexual, but acknowledged there was more “ambiguity” about his sexual orientation than with some people.
He said: “With regard to the question ‘Are you a gay bishop?’, the answer to this is that I have from the beginning chosen to live a single celibate life. This is a positive way of life for me.”
Dr. Hope’s extraordinary openness followed a series of conflicts involving leading clerics and homosexual issues.
OutRage! named 10 bishops as alleged homosexuals during last November’s General Synod. The Bishop of London was not one of them. Then at a private meeting on Jan 4, Mr. Tatchell handed him a letter urging him to “come out”.
Mr. Tatchell, 43, denied yesterday that the letter had been threatening. He said: “It was a friendly and amicable meeting.” He said he later received an answer to his letter which was also published by the bishop yesterday.
by Marina Cronin
We would never out a private individual or a public figure who supports the lesbian and gay community. The only people we support outing are public figures who abuse their power and authority to condemn homosexuality and oppose gay civil rights. In other words, we target those who are gay in private but antigay in public. People who act in a way that is hypocritical and homophobic are fair game for outing.
Unlike the Church, OutRage! believes in the parable of the Good Samaritan. We are not willing to walk by on the other side of the street while homosexual men and women are being victimised.
The queer community has a right to defend itself against public figures, including church leaders, who abuse their power and influence to support policies which inflict suffering on homosexuals.
Bishops lecture other people about being truthful: yet at least 14 of them refuse to be truthful about their own homosexuality. They bear false witness and absurdly accuse OutRage! of intimidation because we asked them to be truthful.
Even more nauseating, these bishops are gay in private, but publicly condemn homosexuality and support antigay discrimination. The official policy of the Anglican Church, endorsed by all Bishops, is that homosexuals must “repent”. These teachings fuel antigay intolerance and lead to concrete acts of Anglican homophobia. Gay clergy in open, honest homosexual relationships are forced out of the ministry. Church resources are provided for “ex-gay” cults such as the Courage Trust, which attempts to brainwash queers into believing they are sick and in need of “healing”. The Children’s Society, a Church of England charity, refuses to allow lesbians and gays to foster young people in need of a loving home.
This denial of homosexual human rights is endorsed by Anglican leaders such as the ex-Bishop of London, David Hope, (now Archbishop of York). Dr. Hope opposes an equal age of consent for gay men and supports the Children’s Society ban on lesbian and gay foster parents.
Outing is queer self-defence. We have a right, and a duty, to expose hypocrites and homophobes. By not outing gay Bishops who support policies which harm homosexuals, we would be protecting these Bishops and thereby allowing them to continue to inflict suffering on members of our community. Collusion with hypocrisy and homophobia is not ethically defensible for Christians, or for anyone else.
Outing is a shock tactic. We make no apology for that. No movement for social justice has ever won equality without being provocative. As the Suffragettes and the black civil rights movement showed, it’s often necessary to be confrontational in order to force an uncaring, intolerant society to address the concerns of the down-trodden.
Whether or not people agree with OutRage!, our outing campaign has done more than any other initiative to publicly the hypocrisy and homophobia of the Church of England. It has compelled the Anglican leadership to address lesbian and gay issues in a way that no other campaign has succeeded in doing.
Six months ago, the Anglican leadership was refusing to discuss homosexuality. Because polite lobbying had failed, OutRage! felt more challenging tactics were necessary. In November 1994, we named 10 Anglican Bishops and urged them to “Tell The Truth” about their homosexuality. Within two weeks, senior Church leaders began serious discussions with lesbian and gay organisations for the first time. Within a month, the Bishops issued one of their strongest condemnations of antigay discrimination. A little later, the world conference of Anglican leaders called on the Church to rethink it’s policy on homosexuality. Then, after having refused to make any public pronouncement on homosexuality for five years, the Archbishop of Canterbury declared that lesbians and gays are “made in the likeness of God” and that society must “reject homophobia”.
In the midst of all this, two Bishops came out. Although the then Bishop of London did so half-heartedly, it was nevertheless a great achievement to get the third most senior Bishop to admit that his sexuality was “ambiguous” and “a grey area”. A few months earlier, such an admission would have resulted in his resignation. Now, however, because OutRage! has succeeded in making Church homophobia less acceptable, the Bishop of London has been promoted to Archbishop of York!
Our plan worked like a dream. We wanted the Bishop of London to come out and for the Church to accept and support him. That’s exactly what happened. We created a situation where the entire Anglican leadership felt compelled to rally round the Bishop and give him its official blessing.
With the Bishop of London having been accepted by the Church, this should now make it easier for other clergy to come out and make it harder for the Anglican hierarchy to take disciplinary action against them.
Already our campaign has inspired some parish priests to come out. It has generated immensely valuable discussions on homosexual issues in many congregations. Indeed for three weeks, we got the whole country talking about matters of concern to lesbian and gay people.
Since the Bishops were named and two others came out, everyone knows that there are gay people within the Church leadership. This is bound to make the Anglican top brass more circumspect in their homophobia. They realise that, given their tacit acceptance of gay senior clergy, any hint of antigay policy will be instantly ridiculed as hypocrisy and double standards. This will almost certainly act as a significant constraint on overt Church homophobia in the future.
None of these positive developments would have occurred if OutRage! had not “provoked a crisis” in the Church by naming the Bishops. Outing has been a catalyst for social change. Not only has it pushed the Anglican Church further towards accepting gay clergy and supporting homosexual human rights, it has also put the hypocrisy and homophobia of establishment institutions at the centre of public debate. OutRage! is proud to have turned over the tables in the temples of homophobia.
Mr Kirker said that the bishops had become much more willing to talk to his organisation since the OutRage demonstration last November, but that lesbian and gay ordinands were still being denied jobs because of their sexuality. David Allison of OutRage said the Bishop’s decision gave “comfort to all those who want to drive homosexual clergy out of the Church”.