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London mayor cleared over ex-gay adverts

08 August 2014

THE Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, did not act improperly to support his re-election campaign by banning an advertisement promoting the post-gay organisation the Core Issues Trust, the High Court has ruled.

The advertisement - which read "Not gay! Ex-gay, post-gay and proud. Get over it!" - had been booked to run on 25 buses between 16 and 29 April 2012, but was blocked after The Guardian ran a story about the adverts.

Mrs Justice Lang decided that the decision to ban the advertisements was taken by Transport for London (TfL) in accordance with its advertising policy rather than by the Mayor, although the Mayor's spokesman, Guto Harri, had told The Guardian and other media that Mr Johnson had instructed the adverts to be pulled.

It is the second time that Mrs Justice Lang has had to consider the case. In March last year, she ruled that TfL acted lawfully in banning the advertisement, because it had a policy of refusing advertisements "which were controversial or likely to cause widespread or serious offence or which were inconsistent with TfL's obligations under the Equality Act 2010".

But she said at the time that it would have been unlawful if the advert had been pulled by Mr Johnson to support his re-election campaign, because the advertisements would then have been rejected for an "improper purpose". There was no evidence that this had happened.

The Court of Appeal ordered a fresh hearing after responses to requests under the Freedom of Information Act revealed internal emails claiming that the decision had been taken by Mr Johnson rather than TfL.

The judge ruled that, although Mr Johnson had made his views known to TfL, the decision to ban the advertisements was taken by TfL itself; and that the false impression given to The Guardian by Mr Harri was done "to present Mr Johnson . . . in the most favourable light possible". She said that the story given to The Guardian was a "tale" that was "not strictly accurate", but that it had not been done with the intention of "advancing Mr Johnson's re-election".

The judge said that, although Mr Johnson was due to speak at a hustings organised by the gay-rights organisation Stonewall the day after the decision had been taken, he was also due to address hustings organised by the Evangelical Alliance and London Church Leaders; and by Black Britain Decides - a coalition including Black Church leaders - within the next week.

Andrea Minichiello Williams, the chief executive officer of the Christian Legal Centre, which had supported the Core Issues Trust in its application for judicial review, described the judgment as "another spectacular display of the establishment's capitulating to the politically correct".

On Wednesday, Mr Johnson announced that he would stand in the 2015 General Election while continuing to serve as Mayor.

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