Gay cure London bus advert ban ‘a case of free speech’

14:46 28 February 2013

The case is taking place at the High Court. File picture: PA Wire

The case is taking place at the High Court. File picture: PA Wire

PA Wire/Press Association Images

London Mayor Boris Johnson has been accused at the High Court of being politically driven when he banned a London bus advert suggesting gay people can be cured.

The ad posters reading: “Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get over it!”, were launched as a riposte to Stonewall’s campaign, which carried the message: “Some people are gay. Get over it!”

Mr Johnson, who is in charge of Transport for London (TfL), condemned the ad as “offensive to gays” and said it could lead to retaliation against the wider Christian community.

Christian charity Core Issues Trust, which works with gay people seeking to change their lifestyles, asked the court to rule it had been unlawfully denied the freedom to express its views on homosexuality.

Paul Diamond, appearing for the charity, told Mrs Justice Lang the ban was imposed in April last year and came “very close” to the mayoral election on May 3, when Mr Johnson defeated political opponent Ken Livingstone.

Mr Diamond said: “It was clearly a highly-charged issue, and the mayor took credit for the highly, politically-driven decision.

“The mayor was strongly of the view this advertisement should not run.”

Mr Diamond said the Core Issues Trust had nothing but “utter respect for people struggling with same-sex attraction”.

Free speech

Mr Diamond argued the trust was equally entitled to express its view on the sides of buses, and to have its right to freedom of expression protected under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

TfL refused to carry its ad on the grounds that it was “likely to cause widespread or serious offence to members of the public”, and it contained “images or messages which relate to matters of public controversy and sensitivity”.

Mr Diamond said: “We believe this is a very important free speech case on whether a totally temperate, restrained advertisement can be put on the sides of London buses.”

Today’s case was originally being brought by Dr Michael Davidson, the head of the trust, but the trust itself was substituted as applicant for procedural reasons.

Mr Davidson said in a written statement to the court: “I contest the notion that the trust is intolerant of practising gay people merely because it provides opportunities and safe spaces for those wishing to move out of homosexuality.

“I am also concerned that Mr Johnson’s actions may have been politically expedient happening as they did before a Stonewall husting and on the eve of mayoral elections for the City of London.”

TfL lawyers are arguing Article 10 does not entitle the trust to advertise “offensive material”.

They say the ban was justified by the need to protect public morals and the right of homosexuals under Article 8 of the convention to respect for their dignity and private live.

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