Jan Moir, the Daily Mail columnist whose column on the death of gay Boyzone singer Stephen Gately provoked widespread anger, won the Stonewall Bigot of the Year Awards last night jointly with Father John Owen, the priest who said most paedophiles were gay.
Moir was a late nominee, but was chosen after Stonewall received an unprecedented response from its members following the publication of her piece last month.
Last night’s ceremony at the Victoria & Albert Musuem was opened by Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill, who spoke about the recent attack on Liverpool gay policeman James Parkes.
Citing the MP David Wilshire, who is being investigated over his expenses, Summerskill reminded the crowd he was the politician who pushed Section 28, which banned teaching about homosexuality in schools, through parliament.
He said: “If any government tries again to introduce a piece of legislation as offensive and demeaning as Section 28, Stonewall is here and we will fight back.”
Summerskill then introduced television presenter Gok Wan as the evening’s host.
The first award, for Publication of the Year, went to G3, the magazine for gay and lesbian women.
Next up was Politician of the Year. Ben Bradshaw, the secretary of state for culture, media and sport. Introducing him, Wan paid tribute to his struggle through discrimination, saying he was the first openly gay man to reach cabinet level. Bradshaw said he was “honoured and humbled” by the award.
Booker Prize nominee Sarah Waters won the Writer of the Year award. Accepting her gong, she said: “This probably isn’t a good time to mention my new book doesn’t have any lesbian characters.” But she added: “I’m thrilled to bits.”
Boyzone won the Entertainer of the Year prize, which was accepted by Stephen Gately’s civil partner Andrew Cowles.
He got the biggest cheers of the night while walking up to the stage to collect the award from host Gok Wan. Cowles told the crowd that Shane Lynch from the band had hoped to attend the awards but was not able to make it.
The Sports Award of the Year went to Michael Hill, the motorbike racer. He saw off Allison Fisher, HotScots FC, Hope Powell and Kings Cross Steelers RFC to win the award.
There was a joint win for Johann Hari and Joan Bakewell, who both won the Journalist of the Year award.
Bakewell said she was “enormously proud” and recalled the days when gay men could be prosecuted for their sexual orientation.
Hari said: “Joan was on our side when things were totally different. It’s up to the rest of us to take these battles forward. The cultural battle is still here.”
Samira Ahmed, of Channel 4 News, won the award for Broadcast of the Year for her piece on ‘corrective’ rape of lesbians in South Africa. Ahmed was not able to attend the ceremony and her husband collected the award on her behalf.
Inevitably, the announcement of the Bigot of the Year award caused the most boos and hisses. Daily Mail columnist Jan Moir had been added to the list of nominees at the last minute, after Stonewall received a deluge of complaints about her article on Gately’s death from supporters.
She was announced as the joint winner with Father John Owen, who said most paedophiles were gay.
Summerskill told the audience that he had phoned Moir to invite her to the ceremony “but she was so excited she dropped the phone”.
The final award to be announced was Hero of the Year. This went to Rev Scott Rennie, the gay man who was appointed as minister of Queen’s Cross Church, Aberdeen.
Rennie’s ordination was opposed by many because he lives with another man, but his congregation overwhelmingly selected him as their minister.
Accepting his award, Rennie said: “Thank you very much. I am deeply humbled to receive this.” He also paid tribute to his congregation, thanking them for their support.