Protest shows support for gay community

By Ian Dipple Thursday 12 June 2014 Updated: 12/06 17:32

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Buy photos » Coun Joe Baker (centre) and those gathered in a show of support for Redditch's LGBT community. Picture by Ian Dipple (s).

A SHOW of solidarity with Redditch’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community has taken place in response to comments made by a former borough councillor branding homosexuals ‘poofs’ and ‘perverts’.

About 50 people from all walks of life and political parties gathered outside the Town Hall ahead of Monday’s annual council meeting (June 9) in a visible rejection of claims made by Dave Small, who resigned from his Church Hill seat last week just days after being elected following revelations about his views.

Coun Joe Baker, who organised the protest, told the Standard it was an important statement of support for the town’s LGBT community.

"It was important to show we don’t want homophobia and bigotry in Redditch and I hope it encourages the residents of Church Hill to think about the calibre of the candidate they are voting for and what they represent," he said.

"It’s a personal issue as well. When you have grown up being gay and had people tell you it’s a lifestyle choice – who would choose a lifestyle where you are bullied in the workplace, having teachers and students bully you at school? That’s not a lifestyle you choose.

"As a politician I have that responsibility within the community to stand up for those who don’t have that voice."

He told the crowd of his own personal experience of homophobia including having a brick thrown through his window while living in Scotland calling him a ‘faggot’ and being told his young son would ‘die of aids’ because his father was gay.

The crowd also heard from Margaret Evans, whose two children are both gay and who runs a group in Worcestershire to support parents when their children come out as homosexual.

She said Mr Small was 'very much on his own' with his views.

"I thought they showed a lack of education but I wouldn’t expect somebody in their 80s to understand about homosexuality because society was very different when we were growing up. I’m in my 60s and homosexuality was not talked about, it was a mental illness or a crime, so I can understand someone of his age who hadn’t bothered to educate himself would find it difficult but if he’d like to come along to our group I’m sure we can enlighten him."

People from outside the borough also attended the protest to show their support including John Ruck, civic head of Bromsgrove District Council whose son his gay.

"I have found a community of gay or lesbian people like him who have a lot to offer and contribute."

Mr Small intends to try and win again the seat he vacated at the forthcoming by-election. He told the Standard last week he believed people would back him despite his views.

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