Senior politicians including justice secretary Jack Straw and British National Party leader Nick Griffin have expressed revulsion at the decision of the Daily Mail to publish a column by Jan Moir which implied the death of Stephen Gately was caused by his gay lifestyle.
Griffin was appearing on BBC’s Question Time, which attracted hundreds of anti-fascism protestors. Three policemen were reportedly hurt in the scrum outside the BBC’s studios.
The column was written by Jan Moir, who called Gately’s death “sleazy” and unnatural”. She added that his death “struck a blow” at the “myth” of civil partnerships. The star died from natural causes in a flat in Majorca. Moir’s column was published last Friday, the day before his funeral.
Griffin, who has been accused of homophobia in the past, said: “Freedom of the press is the foundation stone of our democratic system, so the Mail can publish it if it wants.
“But I personally believe that in the case of someone like Stephen Gately who’s died- [abide by] the old maxim ‘say nothing if not good. So, I think it was wrong.”
Straw said: “The Daily Mail were free to publish it.” But he added: “I regarded the article as odious it fans homophobia. We only get a decent society if we respect each other’s differences.”
He said the article was wrong to imply “that poor Stephen’s death suggests that civil partnerships should be abandoned. It’s the same as saying because marriages end in divorce”.
Mr Straw added that he was glad that “gay and lesbians are able to honour their relationships in public through a ceremony”.
In a Tweet shortly after via Twitter, Europe minister Chris Bryant agreed, saying: “Jack Straw is right – Jan Moir’s piece was odious.”
Liberal Democrat Home Affairs spokesman Chris Huhne, said: “I defend the right to write it and print it.
“But I didn’t approve of it. I think she [Jan Moir] was quite wrong to say that someone had brought on themselves a sleazy lifestyle and died.
“It was in bad taste, writing about things she didn’t know, it was intruding and speculating. Giving vent to a cruel homophobic prejudice, no place in society for this type of prejudice.
“We need to respect each others rights, it undermined the rights of the gay community and was a retrograde step.”
Conservative shadow community cohesion minister Baroness Sayeeda Warsi said: “When someone dies, they are resting in peace, once they have gone from this world and it’s not acceptable.”
David Dimbleby, chairing the debate, also brought up the ‘homophobic’ leaflets used by Baroness Warsi in her 2005 election campaign as the Conservative candidate for Dewsbury.
Warsi’s leaflets had been distributed in Muslim areas and said that Labour was “promoting homosexuality” to schoolchildren and that equalising the age of consent allowed “schoolchildren to be propositioned for homosexual relationships”.
When asked whether she supported civil partnerships, Warsi first attempted to give her views on Moir’s article but was pressured by Dimbleby until she said she supported the right of same-sex couples to have their relationships legally recognised.
Dimbleby then turned to Griffin to ask his views.
“I’m against the teaching of homosexuality to primary school children, I’m against teaching any sex to children,” he said.
Dimbleby read a section of Moir’s article – “For once again, under the carapace of glittering, hedonistic celebrity, the ooze of a very different and more dangerous lifestyle has seeped out for all to see” – and asked Griffin whether this was in line with his views.
Griffin said: “A lot of people find the site of two men kissing in public a bit creepy. I understand that homosexuals don’t understand that, but that is how a lot of us feel. A lot of Christians feel that way.
“I took a party that said that homosexuality should be outlawed, militant homosexuals don’t have the right to teach it.”
This was met with angry outbursts from the audience, with one man shouting: “Rubbish – you’re a disgrace.”
When a lesbian audience member stood up to tell Griffin “the feeling of revulsion is mutual”, Griffin smiled and laughed.