The UK Independence Party, or UKIP, has been a divisive force in British politics for years. The right-wing populist party, led by the charismatic Nigel Farage, has built up its support base by appealing to the latent, though growing, xenophobia and racism within British society. Its track record on LGBT issues has been similarly problematic, with the Tom Booker, the founder and original Chair of the party's official LGBT group, LGBT* In UKIP, resigning during this year's general election due to "disillusionment of policy direction and dissatisfaction at the failure of the leadership to set a gay-friendly tone." Citing UKIP's nebulous stance on LGBT issues, Pride In London, the country's largest Pride celebration, has banned the party's LGBT contingent from participating. However, many within the LGBT community are not happy.
In an open letter to Pride In London, Darren Styles, editor and publisher of the English version popular gay magazine Winq, articulated his ire with the organization's decision:
"In a misconceived attempt to do what some see as the right thing, UKIP has been banned from participating in the Pride in London Parade on Saturday 27th June, apparently “to protect participants and ensure the event passes off safely.”
"It so happens that said political party is an anathema to us, in everything it stands for. It is detestable, myopic, has an appalling record (and standpoint) on LGBT rights, even among some of its LGBT members."
"But you don’t change that, or expose that, with exclusion. You cannot educate or be educated in absentis. You can’t preach tolerance and diversity while displaying intolerance and insularity. Though by applying a Putin-esque edit to a voice or message you don’t like, you do present the excluded with a platform, add credibility to their cause and – unwittingly or otherwise – create martyrs."
"Instead, Pride in London (indeed any Pride) should be the one time when any LGBT person puts down any difference that separates them and throws their arms open to the world. When, regardless of your place on the gender or sexuality spectrum, notwithstanding your age, politics, race, religion or hair colour, you celebrate the freedom you have and strive for the equality that is your birthright."
"So we implore you to pull back, and to reconsider UKIP’s exclusion. Not for who they are, for they are not worthy. But to underscore the notion that ours is a community that has suffered such discrimination it knows not to discriminate."
"Do not become the community’s police force, do not – now or later – sit in judgement on anyone’s LGBT credentials. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and be in no doubt that hell is where this leads you. Nobody can, or should, decide who is LGBT enough to march or participate. You put at great risk all you have worked so hard to gain."
"If, on that day in that place, somebody (anybody) wants to march shoulder to shoulder with us then let them come on in. As a community we have love and compassion in abundance, when minded to show it, and if every day we win just a handful more hearts and minds, even in the unlikeliest of places, then we leave the world better than we found it."
"And if those that disagree want to voice their disdain at UKIP as they pass, to protest peacefully and correctly, then that’s fine too. We have at times been an army of protest and will likely be so again, the world for LGBT people is as dangerous as it ever was. We’ll stand with those upstanding souls against all within UKIP that is abhorrent. It’s called freedom of expression, and that argument runs both ways."
"But that freedom is what we fought for here, and are fighting for still. And it can’t be surrendered on the basis of an arbitrary exclusion of a bona fide LGBT group."
"We must remain a broad and open church, with all of the congregation welcome."
Read the full letter on Winq.