The head of an influential homosexual lobby group has claimed ‘homophobia’ in parts of the NHS is worse than that of the regime operating in Saudi Arabia.
Ben Summerskill, Chief Executive of Stonewall, was speaking at an NHS Employers conference on equality and diversity.
The Nursing Times quotes him as claiming: “We heard from a gay Filipino man who worked as a staff nurse in a London hospital.
“The level of disrespect was worse than anything he had experienced, including working for three years as an openly gay man in Saudi Arabia.”
The comparison may be seen as ill-considered and inflammatory in light of the actual treatment of homosexuals in Saudi Arabia.
Last year homosexual news site Pink News reported that two gay Filipino men had been arrested by the Saudi Arabian “morality police”.
It added that in October 2007 two men were publicly flogged in Saudi Arabia after being found guilty of sodomy and sentenced to 7,000 lashes.
Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia under Sharia law and can be punishable by the death penalty.
Mr Summerskill made his criticisms after just two NHS bodies made it into Stonewall’s top 100 ‘gay-friendly’ employers.
The British Medical Association recently published a report on homophobia in the NHS consisting of 16 largely positive accounts by lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender health professionals.
Points for criticism included the “conservatism of the medical profession” towards homosexuality, and “heterosexism” – where heterosexuality is viewed as normal – among some staff. Some thought sexual orientation could be a block to promotion.
Even given the positive experiences contained in the report, it still concluded that the NHS needs to do more to tackle discrimination.
Mr Summerskill’s remarks have raised concern given his role as an Equality and Human Rights Commissioner.
According to the Commission’s website, its aims include “educating and enthusing the public” in order to “expand the scope of knowledge and understanding of equality and human rights”, and minimising tensions between social groups.
This is not the first time Mr Summerskill has given confusing or misleading definitions of homophobia.
In 2007, he told Stonewall supporters he was “shocked” that the Metropolitan Police had allowed Christians to carry out a peaceful and legitimate religious liberties demonstration outside Parliament.
Press reports said the event was attended by around 1,000 Christians singing hymns and holding placards reading ‘Back the Bible’ and ‘Christians Awake’.
But Mr Summerskill spoke of ‘hate-filled faces’, and said he was “shocked that the Metropolitan Police gave some fringe protesters permission to demonstrate outside Parliament…carrying posters inciting hatred against gay people”.
Stonewall were at the forefront of the campaign to introduce a law against ‘inciting homophobic hatred’. This law is now on the statute books, but contains a free speech protection which the Government is now trying to remove.
The protection makes it clear that criticising homosexual practice or urging people to refrain from such conduct is not, in itself, a crime.
There are fears that, with the removal of this safeguard, the new law will be used to try to silence Christian beliefs about sexual ethics.