South Kesteven leader tells councillors he was ‘blackmailed’
Council leader Matthew Lee has revealed to councillors that people have tried to ‘blackmail’ him over his sexuality.
The comment came as he explained his opposition to a proposal from Grantham councillor Tracey Forman for the rainbow flag to fly over Grantham’s council building to mark February being LGBT History Month.
Coun Forman told the full meeting of South Kesteven District Council that many councils and organisations were “celebrating” the lives and achievements of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people this month.
People might think that in 2018 with Grantham having a gay MP and gay bishop there was no need to raise the rainbow flag, she said. But the election of Barack Obama as US President and the UK having two female prime ministers did not mean there was no racial discrimination in the US, or sexism in the UK.
The Labour councillor also wanted SKDC to publicise LGBT history month on the council website, along with details on how to report hate crime. She also said council staff may not feel able to be open about their sexuality.
Cabinet member Mike King proposed an amendment to Coun Forman’s motion, accepting her recommendations, bar flying the flag – a move which was overwhelmingly accepted.
Coun Matthew Lee then said: “As a council, we oppose discrimination in all its forms” and it was “appalling” people should experience any kind of discrimination.
“I have been councillor here all of three years. I have received two communications from individuals threatening to reveal to the world that I am gay. I have been openly gay for many years. The fact that you can stand for public office and be blackmailed is ridiculous.”
After noting it was 40 years since the death of openly gay US councillor Harvey Milk, Coun Lee said he opposed flying the rainbow flag, saying the council received many requests to fly flags.
“I do agree we need to do more about cohesion and diversity. We will be appointing a cohesion and diversity officer within council. We haven’t been good in this council on that up to now.”
However, Coun Forman still wanted to fly the flag as a sign of visible support, especially for young people passing the council offices who may be experiencing discrimination.
Fellow Labour councillor Phil Dilks agreed, noting how society has become more accepting since homosexuality was decriminalised.
Coun Dilks said: “It’s an opportunity to lead further change and show kids because we are making a statement that we accept the gay and lesbian community as it is.”
Before Coun Dilks waved a rainbow flag in the council chamber, the council leader made one last comment about council staff and diversity questionaires.
He said: “I hate these types of questions. I loathe them. It’s nobody’s business. I take great delight in never answering them.
“It’s important we understand our community but people are also very private so there will be no drive from me or officers to identify sexual preferences of our staff. Private business is private business. We shouldn’t be such an interfering state at times.”