July 7th celebrated World Pride Festival and Parade in London. With such a large-scale event happening so close to the Olympic Games, I figured that now would be a great time to witness an event of this kind at this magnitude. It was very exciting to see such a wide variety of people all marching together proud to be who they are and supporting each other and human rights in general. At first, there was meant to be a parade, but when not enough funds were acquired, the parade was downgraded to a procession. Even though it ended up being less than initially anticipated, the event was still very impressive in the amount of people that turned out both to march and to watch. It was great to see the show of support from so many diverse groups, businesses, and even a few religious groups.
Another element that made this procession interesting to me was the fact that England has a national religion and one that has a very rocky relationship when it comes to gay rights. Many groups within the extended Anglican Church have come out in support of same-sex marriage (as noted in this article from the BBC) and also in support of the appointment of openly gay bishops. Overall, there seem to be a hearty amount of people within the church who are fully supportive of civil marriages for same-sex couples or to a lesser extent, it seems fair to say that most people of the Church of England are at least wanting not to actively exclude anyone. Having said this, there is still much controversy, with many of the more conservative groups within the church becoming very outspoken against gay rights, culminating recently in a series of ads that were banned by the TfL (Transport for London).
The ad was put out by a group called Anglican Mainstream. This group within the Anglican Church is a very conservative, orthodox group who are known for being very anti-gay among other things. The ad read, “Not gay! Ex-gay, post-gay and proud. Get over it!”, and was a response to the very popular ad “Some people are gay. Get over it!” that was put out by the Stonewall group. The controversy surrounding the ad relates to the suggestion that being gay is a choice or an illness that people are able to overcome with therapy. The group Pink News quoted Boris Johnson, mayor of London, as responding to the controversy by saying, “London is one of the most tolerant cities in the world and intolerant of intolerance. It is clearly offensive to suggest that being gay is an illness that someone recovers from and I am not prepared to have that suggestion driven around London on our buses.” Many other politicians also stepped out to condemn the ad and its suggestions of intolerance. After the interference by the mayor, the TfL posted a statement on Twitter that said: “Anglican Mainstream ad just brought to our attention and will not run on London’s bus or transport networks. We don’t believe these ads reflect TfL’s commitment to a tolerant and inclusive London.” I personally think that this interference was a very good move on Johnson’s part both because of the Olympics taking place soon and also due to the anger that he was facing from not paying the difference that would have allowed there to be a parade as opposed to a procession.
With both the response to the ad and number of groups that showed up for the parade, it was heartwarming to see so many people from so many different paths of life banding together to stop injustice and promote tolerance and respect for other people.