Officials tell activist group Canterbury is ‘gay enough’

Claims by a ‘gay rights’ group that Canterbury City Council was failing to support the area’s gay community have been exposed as groundless.

The Pride in Canterbury group made the accusations after Canterbury City Council decided not to back a plan to promote gay plays in the local theatre.

The group claimed at the time: “We do not believe the council want a thriving LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transsexual) community in our city.”

But a two-month investigation costing thousands of pounds has now concluded that the Council had in fact been active in providing funding for the group and encouraging it to suggest potential LGBT events.

Pride in Canterbury has now received a letter from the Local Government Ombudsman pointing out: “I see from information provided by the council that it has given your organisation funding in past years.

“It has invited you to provide details of touring plays and musicals, for example, which would be of interest to the LGBT community.

“And it has also invited you to put forward suggestions for small events that it might help fund, as well as proposals for other events such as exhibitions.”

The case was originally seized on by campaigners as an example of how the Equality Bill could be used to force local authorities to submit to the demands of other ‘gay rights’ groups.

Statutory duties proposed in the Equality Bill mean that public bodies including local councils would be forced to promote ‘equality’ in areas including sexual orientation.

Theo Grzegorczyk, an adviser to gay rights proponent Lord Waheed Alli, said the case provided an answer for “all those who have questioned whether or not the Equality Duty is practical or necessary”.

He claimed that the council had “been able to wiggle their way out of engaging with members of their own community, simply because the law doesn’t require it”.

With the new duties in place it would not “be able to use that defence much longer”, said Mr Grzegorczyk.

The Council’s Chief Executive, Colin Carmichael, said: “We have always refuted suggestions that the council doesn’t engage with the LGBT community and I’m delighted that the ombudsman agrees that the argument is groundless.

“Such allegations have been particularly disappointing in light of the past funding we have secured for Pride in Canterbury, and our holding of a gay open day in the council offices on one Saturday last year.”

The Equality Bill is currently at Committee Stage in the House of Commons.

One homosexual campaigner, former PinkNews editor Tony Grew, claimed recently that the Bill will “entrench gay rights in all aspects of public life”.

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