Former shadow home secretary Chris Grayling was named ‘Bigot of the Year’ at Thursday night’s Stonewall awards.
Tory MP Mr Grayling, who was secretly recorded in May saying that bed and breakfasts should have the right to bar gay couples, was not present to collect his award but Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill said it would be delivered to him.
Four hundred and fifty people attended the £175-a-head ceremony at the V&A Museum, including Mary Portas, Clare Balding, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw and BBC newsreader Jane Hill.
The event was hosted by comedian Sue Perkins, who, referring to Stephen Fry’s latest woes, joked: “In my experience, women only have relationships to have sex.”
Gareth Thomas, who became the first out gay professional rugby player last December, was named ‘Hero of the Year’.
He attended the London ceremony with his parents. Some audience members were in tears as he spoke after accepting the award.
Mr Thomas said: “I don’t really know what denotes a hero. I’m just myself. But when you live in a world that tries to make different a wrong thing, to me, being a hero is just being honest.
He added: “To be a hero, you have to follow in a hero’s footsteps. And there’s people here tonight who’ve been my heroes all my life and will be forever – that’s my mother and father.”
There were no protests outside the V&A Museum, as trans and gay marriage campaigners decided to cancel a planned demonstration after Stonewall announced it would begin to lobby for gay couples to marry.
Author Stella Duffy, who was the joint winner of ‘Writer of the Year’ with Rupert Smith, said in her acceptance speech that she had been “pushing for dialogue” between the groups and was pleased that the protest had been cancelled.
Patrick Strudwick was named ‘Journalist of the Year’ for his expose in the Independent of so-called ‘gay-cure’ therapists.
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Mr Strudwick, who underwent the treatment for his story, said: “I am dedicating this award to all the victims of hate around the world who have told me their stories. Their strength and dignity spurred me on.”
He also thanked the thousands of people who added their support to his campaign to stamp out the controversial therapy.
EastEnders actor John Partidge won the ‘Entertainer of the Year’ award for his gay storyline in the soap. He paid tribute to screenwriter Dominic Treadwell-Collins for managing to “tell a gay story at 7.30 in the evening”.
Martina Navratilova won huge applause when she was given the sports award. The tennis star is currently in Colorado training to climb Mount Kilimanjaro and pre-recorded a message of thanks.
Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow was named ‘Politician of the Year’. The MP, whose wife Sally recently completed a charity parachute jump for Stonewall, praised Mr Summerskill for his “truly inspirational leadership”.
The Times won the award for ‘Publication of the Year’, while the ‘Community Group of the Year’ award was won by Mind Out, the LGBT branch of mental health charity Mind. The group receieved a £5,000 cheque.
Coronation Street, which broadcast its first lesbian storyline this year, won the award for ‘Broadcast of the Year’.
Mr Summerskill said: “This has been a landmark year. All three major soaps have featured compelling depictions of lesbian and gay characters. All three main parties have made gay equality a central, vote-winning election issue. And rugby now has its first openly gay professional player.
“We’re proud to have seen all these successes of modern Britain reflected at the Stonewall Awards ceremony.”