There is serious concern about the venues being used across the Civil Service for conferences/events. It appears that some host and (importantly) organise events that CSRA would consider to be homophobic. This has the effect of making some LGB* staff deeply uncomfortable about attending Civil Service events at these venues. For example, at a recent away day, some CSRA members chose to boycott the event, which was unfortunate because it meant they did not join their colleagues for an election planning session and because they had to have awkward conversations with their management chains.
The venue that is causing the most concern is the Emmanuel Centre situated across the road from the Home Office. In the past 5 years they have organised 17 events that we would consider offensive including:
- June 2014 – an event aimed at helping debunk the myth that same-sex attraction happens and gives tips on how to prevent ‘unwanted homosexual feelings’
- January 2013 – sexual re-orientation therapy – proposing that people can somehow ‘be cured’ and been ‘re-oriented to heterosexuality’
- January 2012 – an event entitled ‘The Leper amongst us’ which talks about how same sex sins are ‘a disease of epic proportions’ and how the sinners should be treated.
CSRA has raised this issue with Sue Owen, the Civil Service LGBT champion, and with senior management in the Departments using this venue. There is a question here, that needs to be answered: how can a venue, such as the Emmanuel Centre, be on an ‘approved list’ of venues for use by the Civil Service given Department’s public sector duties under the Equality Act?
CSRA will be discussing this with Sue Owen in our next regular meeting with her, and we will keep you updated.