BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — London's High Court has upheld Transport for London's (TfL) decision to ban anti-gay advertisements on its buses, Pink News reports.
The ads, with the message "Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay and Proud. Get over it," were to be placed on 24 buses in response to another ad campaign by the gay rights group Stonewall that said, "Some people are gay. Get over it."
According to Pink News, Core Issues Trust, the anti-gay Christian group behind the ads, told the High Court last month that TfL's decision to pull them was unlawful and threatened democratic freedoms.
Justice Lang found that while TfL's introduction of the ban was "procedurally unfair" and breached its own procedures, the factors against running the ads — they would cause "grave offence," were perceived as homophobic, and would increase the risk of prejudice and homophobic attacks — outweighed those concerns.
London Mayor Boris Johnson also found the ads to be "clearly offensive."
“In a city where over half of gay young people face bullying at school, and where tens of thousands of gay people are subjected to hate crimes every year just because of the way they were born, it’s perfectly proper for a mayor to object to the use of such advertising in an iconic public setting," Pink News quotes Stonewall head Ben Summerskill as saying.
Gay rights advocate Peter Tatchell disagrees with the ruling, saying Core Issues Trust should have been allowed to place the ads on buses, despite their offensive message.
Writing in Pink News, he says the ads' suggestion that gay people can be cured is misleading, but the language is "not abusive, menacing or threatening."
"On balance, on the grounds of free speech, the adverts should not have been banned. The suggestion that they risked increasing public prejudice and hate crime is doubtful," he says. While Tatchell agrees with Justice Lang's conclusion that the ads are offensive to gay people, he says that's not a "legitimate basis for banning anything."
"In a free society there is no right to not be offended. Almost anything that anyone says can potentially be deemed offensive by someone," he writes. "The law should not cater to the sensitivities of any section of the public. If it did, many adverts, plays, books and films would be banned."
"Banning these adverts reminds me of the bad old days when gay adverts were banned on the grounds that they were offensive," he continues. "For decades, gay helplines, youth groups and campaign organisations faced bans on advertising their services. It is not right for the gay community to turn around and adopt the oppressive, anti-free speech tactics of our past oppressors."
The High Court has given Core Issues Trust permission to appeal the ruling.