UK: Home Office suspends worker over ‘interrogation’ of gay passport applicant
The Home Office has ordered an investigation into allegations that a gay passport applicant was subject to invasive personal questions about his family life.
According to the Guardian, Randall Cole was questioned in front of his four year old son about his sexual practices, with officials demanding to know whether he had ever had sex with a woman, in what was meant to be a routine passport application.
Cole, who is US-born, married British-born Stuart Wales in 2001, and became a British citizen on May 1 this year.
Cole says he was expecting a “straightforward interview” when he went to the passport office in Chelmsford, Essex, but was left feeling “violated and dirty” by the “clearly homophobic” invasive questioning.
He said: “I told her I am here with my son Samuel and that he has an older brother [Benjamin, eight] but that my husband is looking after him – and when I used the term husband that’s when you could see something immediately changed in her. She began to fixate on questions about my family.
“She said: ‘Is this your biological child?’ And when I said no she said: ‘Is it your partner’s biological child?’ And when I explained that we are family through adoption she said: ‘Oh, so that’s why you’re able to have children.’
“She then asked ‘What do the children call their birth mother?’ and ‘What does the birth mother think about all of us?’ and ‘Aren’t the children confused by it all?’
“Then she said: ‘What do you think people make of you when they see you walking down the street with your kids?’
“She said: ‘You must have had relationships with women in the past though?’, [when I stopped her].”
“She became indignant and said: ‘We can ask anything we want, regardless of whether or not it makes you feel uncomfortable.’
“It was clear she was trying to humiliate me – a way to get me to say if I’d had sex with a woman.
“She said I could refuse to answer but my lack of response would be noted and then proceeded to try to get me to answer, through a variety of questions, whether I or Stuart had previously been sexually active heterosexually.
“I have never felt so violated or humiliated. Her questioning was clearly homophobic, designed to put me in my place. We moved here because of the promise of a tolerant society.
A Home Office spokesman said: “Intrusive questions about someone’s sexuality as part of an interview would be inappropriate and is not a reflection of our policy.
“The member of staff in question has been suspended and a disciplinary investigation is now under way.”