LONDON, UK – LGBT rights have come unexpectedly to the forefront of the debate in this year’s campaign for Mayor of London, with the current officeholder being criticized for permitting homophobic ads to be placed on public transportation by an anti-gay church.
Last week, London Mayor Boris Johnson, a well-placed figure in the country’s Conservative Party, ordered municipal employees to pull the ads, which were paid for by a Christian group called Core Issues Trusts, which supports “reparative therapy,” a highly controversial and widely-discredited course of “treatment” to turn gay people straight.
The bus ads—which were scheduled to run for two weeks starting this Monday—carried the message “Not Gay! Post-Gay, Ex-Gay, and Proud. Get Over It.” They were meant to mimic a recent campaign by LGBT rights group Stonewall that included the message “Some people are gay. Get over it.”
“London is one of the most tolerant cities in the world and intolerant of intolerance,” said Johnson. “It is clearly offensive to suggest being gay is an illness someone recovers from and I am not prepared to have that suggestion driven around London on our buses.”
According to Core Issues’ Web site, the group is “a non-profit Christian initiative seeking to support men and women with homosexual issues who voluntarily seek change in sexual preference and expression.” The group’s co-director, Mike Davidson, expressed displeasure with Johnson’s decision to block the ads.
“It is of deep concern that there can only be one point of view and that is the point of view of individuals who are determined to push through gay marriage and apparently believe that homosexuality cannot be altered in any possible way,” said Davidson. “This is a disturbing development.” Davidson has previously said that he believes “homoerotic behavior is sinful.”
Johnson, who is seeking a second term, was also criticized by one of his opponents, Labor candidate Ken Livingstone. “In 1906 the front page of the Daily Mail’s headline was ‘Jews bring crime and disease to Britain,’” said Livingstone, a former Mayor of London who was defeated in 2008 by Johnson. “Then it was the blacks, then it was the Irish, then it was the lesbians and gays—there has always got to be an enemy.