Dear John Birt: A former press officer for Gay Pride takes the director-general of the BBC to task for suspending the corporation's 'honeymoon policy' only days after extending it to homosexual employees

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Why has the BBC been so limp-wristed? For a few fleeting days, gay employees at the Beeb enjoyed equality with their heterosexual peers. Now we've all lost out. As I am sure you are aware, we have a long way to go before gay couples are viewed by the law and society in the same light as our heterosexual counterparts, but every little helps.

But that is what this 'honeymoon policy' was, of course - a little; simply parity for any BBC employees who chose to marry. A week off and a small payment as token of congratulation. And pounds 75, after all, does not go a long way - three bottles of champagne, a third of the way to a week in Mikonos (low season) or slightly less than a year's TV licence fee. Given the burning hoops society jumps backwards through to fete every milestone of heterosexual life, a week off and a glorified Christmas box seemed, well, only fair.

This scheme had benefitted straight couples for some time - and gone unquestioned. I can only wonder what prompted such a furore from MPs - a group of people who regularly vote themselves pay rises - and mourn your decision to suspend the scheme in the face of this petty-minded onslaught.

Of course, if those MPs were motivated by a burning desire to eradicate unnecessary expenditure, then one would find it easier to sympathise. Call me a suspicious old queen, but I have a nasty feeling that they are actually appalling bigots who shoot from the hip with their feet in their mouths (I have the pictures) when gay people show signs of shaking off their status as second-class citizens. The vehemence of their response suggested that they expected all broadcasting would cease as thousands of BBC employees emerged from behind their cameras, and out of their closets, to drown out the Nine O'Clock News with the din of nuptial festivities. Perhaps, John, you know something I don't - surely the staff of the BBC can't consist entirely of homosexual men and women?

I was hoping that this would be the beginning of a liberalisation policy that extended into programming as well. I looked forward to extensive coverage of this year's Gay Pride Festival. And surely it's about time that a prime-time soap featured a gay character who is neither completely miserable (Freddie in Eldorado or Colin in EastEnders) or about to die.

Perhaps a half-hour slot could have been devoted to a grilling of Sir Nicholas Fairbairn by gay activists as to the nature of his objections to this small concession, followed by an investigation by Dr Anthony Clare into the root of such prejudice.

I would have hoped for a less spineless response to such a rabid protest, John. This only goes to prove that homophobia reaps benefits for no one; we are all demeaned by prejudice. You could take a lesson from any lesbian or gay man - don't let the bigots grind you down.

(Photograph omitted)