The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has agreed to meet with Peter Tatchell after the human rights campaigner urged him to support LGBT equality in an open letter.
It is the first time an Archbishop has offered to meet with Mr Tatchell – who is synonymous with Britain’s LGBT rights movement.
He wrote to Justin Welby on the eve of his enthronement as Archbishop of Canterbury.
Mr Tatchell said: “I hope you will use your new authority to guide the church to accept equality and human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
“Just over a decade ago, you expressed harsh homophobic opinions, condemning gay relationships and the adoption of children by same-sex couples.
“You may have since revised these views but even now you oppose marriage equality.”
However, in his letter Mr Tatchell accused the Archbishop of supporting discrimination. He said: “One of your first public statements, when you were confirmed as Archbishop of Canterbury last month, was to declare your support for discrimination against gay people: namely your support for the legal ban on same-sex civil marriage.
“Moreover, although you have expressed your support for civil partnerships, it is reported that you have not approved civil partnerships taking place in churches or church blessings for same-sex couples.
“You claim that you are not homophobic but a person who opposes legal equality for LGBT people is homophobic – in the same way that a person who opposes equal rights for black people is racist.”
Mr Tatchell added: “Discrimination is not a Christian value; regardless of whether this discrimination concerns gender, race, faith, sexual orientation or gender identity.
“You say that you are listening to the concerns of the LGBT community but you continue to ignore and reject our claim for equal marriage rights. It does not feel like you are listening. Or perhaps you listening but not hearing?”
Responding to the human rights campaigner’s letter via email, Justin Welby said:
Dear Mr Tatchell,
Thank you for your very thoughtful letter. It requires much thought and the points it makes are powerful. I would like to explain what I think to you without the mediation of the press, and listen to you in return. I hope you will excuse the absence of a detailed response this side of the installation service tomorrow and of Easter. I am copying in a colleague, who will be in touch to fix a date…(for a meeting)