A PUBLIC discussion on the future direction of gay and gender politics, organised by CCCq, which is the LGBTQ and intersex staff network at Canterbury Christ Church University, a Church of England foundation, went ahead on Monday without protest, after the National Union of Students LGBT officer, Fran Cowling, refused to share a platform with the main speaker, the human-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
Ms Cowling turned down an invitation to participate because Mr Tatchell had been described as racist and homophobic as a signatory of an open letter in The Observer last year, which opposed the trend for the organisers of student debates to exclude speakers who held views with which they disagreed.
The event, opened by the Vice-Chancellor of Canterbury Christ Church, Professor Rama Thirunamachandran, was part of the university’s LGBT History Month programme. The Bishop of Buckingham, Dr Alan Wilson, who took part in the debate, said that Mr Tatchell’s long-standing defence of human rights was unassailable.
The event was supported by the local students’ union, and was full to capacity. “Not many bishops have the opportunity to take part in an event like this,” Dr Wilson said. Other speakers had welcomed the participation of the Church, he added.