The minister for immigration has said that the Labour government “will always oppose homophobia” after the Home Office banned two gay hate preachers from entering the UK.
Phil Woolas said that the Home Secretary’s response to calls from LGBT Labour to ban members of the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church was proof of their commitment to protecting gay people.
“Thank you to the LGBT Labour – the Labour Campaign for Lesbian, Gay Bisexual and Trans Rights – for their persistence and vigilance,” said Mr Woolas.
“The lobbying on the Westboro Baptist Church was timely and precise.
“The Home Secretary has confirmed the exclusion order.
“I am grateful to the group whose arguments were strong and convincing. The Labour government will always oppose homophobia.”
LGBT Labour said its co-chair Simon Wright had written to Mr Woolas, Minister of State for Borders and Immigration, about the Westboro Baptist Church’s planned visit to the UK.
Subsequently, the group met with Mr Woolas and spoke regularly on the phone about the issues as they developed.
Rev Fred Phelps and Shirley Phelps-Roper are leading members of the Westboro Baptist Church, a small sect of around 60 people. They were banned from the UK last week.
The group claimed on their website GodHatesFags.com that they would be protesting at a performance of a gay-themed play in Basingstoke.
The church members, who are mostly relations of Mr Phelps, regularly picket funerals claiming the deaths are God’s punishment for the country’s support of homosexuals.
They have caused so much distress picketing at funerals of soldiers killed in action that they have been restricted from doing so in 22 American states.
The government has been accused of double-standards because it has not acted to ban homophobic performers such as Beenie Man from the UK.
“The Phelps are odious, homophobic bigots. They give Christianity a bad name,” said Peter Tatchell of gay rights group OutRage!
“Objectionable though they are, I don’t agree with them being banned but since the Home Secretary banned the Dutch MP Geert Wilders at least she is being consistent by also banning these Christian preachers of hate.
“It makes it all the more odd that the Home Secretary has not banned Jamaican reggae singers who incite the murder of gay people.
“Why are they allowed in to the country but not the Phelps?
“Inciting murder is even worse than inciting hatred. Why the double standards?”