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A small victory for campaigners: Tesco says it won’t sponsor London’s gay pride march next year

The company has apologised for creating ‘misunderstanding and mistrust’ and will change its policy in 2013. That is good enough for me

By on Monday, 2 January 2012

Tesco seems to have listened to its customers (Photo: PA)

Tesco seems to have listened to its customers (Photo: PA)

Yesterday at Mass, the first day of the New Year and celebrating the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, our parish priest told us that Western civilisation was crumbling before our eyes. We all knew what he meant and we all knew that he was referring to the Christian civilisation that had built and shaped the West after the fall of the Roman Empire.

Yet I don’t want to write about doom and gloom. The bigger picture may be as our pp thinks, but we can still celebrate small victories. One of these, news of which broke just before Christmas, was that Tesco will not be sponsoring the London gay pride march in 2013. Readers of this and William Oddie’s blog will remember that we drew attention to Tesco’s decision to give £30,000 in sponsorship for a “family area” for this year’s march. Many people wrote to Tesco in response to this news, pointing out that the sponsorship did not reflect the views, beliefs and outlook of the overwhelming number of families that choose to shop at Tesco.

I wrote to the company myself, saying that it had moved from its policy of giving generous donations to charities to sponsoring a clearly political and highly controversial event. I asked them if they would do the same for a March for Life. Others wrote in to point out the debauched features of the Pride London march or the way some elements in these parades dress up in ways designed to mock Christian belief. All of us told them that by this decision the company had ceased to be “family friendly” in the way most people interpret the phrase and that we would shop elsewhere.

Judging from those people who sent me Tesco’s answers to their letters of protest, we all received stereotypical replies along the lines of “We believe everyone should be welcome at Tesco. This is reflected in the people we employ and the customers we serve. It is also reflected in the broad range of organisations and causes we serve…” followed by a list of some of the very considerable sums that Tesco donates to charities, such as the Alzheimer’s Society, and adding: “We are proud to have been invited to support World Pride in 2012 among a variety of community and charitable events.”

Without picking up here on Tesco’s sense of the words “community” or “charitable” in relation to the Pride marches, I thought this would be the end of the affair; why should a huge business like Tesco bother about – in their eyes – a bunch of hardline Christians when they had won the pink pound? Then on December 21 a friend who helps organise the Christian Party in Wales sent me an email she had received from Danielle Thomas, Tesco’s Customer Service Executive, which proved us wrong.

It began by saying, “I accept that you do not agree with our decision to sponsor Pride London. Tesco is the largest private-sector employer in the UK and our workforce comes from very diverse backgrounds… We encourage those colleagues who wish to set up their own social groupings within the company, one of the most recent of which is Out at Tesco, for gay and lesbian staff. This group asked for some support for Pride London, and we agreed to do that as part of our policy to treat all who work for us fairly.”

The email continued by stating that “Our support implies no moral, philosophical or political stance. It is not an expression of Tesco’s views; it simply reflects the diversity of the people who work for us.” But it is the concluding paragraphs that are the most significant: “We know that being the UK’s leading retailer carries unique responsibilities… We have a responsibility to listen carefully to our many and diverse customers and stakeholders, respect their views and seek to balance their opinions in the decisions we make… Whatever the issue, it is never our intention deliberately to inflame or polarise public opinion or to make an already contentious debate more contentious.

“We are very aware that a well-intended action designed simply to support some of our colleagues in Tesco has unintentionally created some misunderstanding and mistrust. We would never set out to do this and we are sorry for it. We will continue to support our colleagues in the Out at Tesco network… Most of our charitable and community awareness support is, however, focused on delivering practical benefits rather than funding awareness-raising events.

“We will, therefore, discuss with Out at Tesco how we can support them in future years in ways that will not include sponsoring events… I hope that [this] begins to restore your confidence that Tesco does try to do the right thing and does indeed listen to your feedback.”

I take this at face value and read it as a turnaround; a positive response to the very large number of letters that Tesco will have received from loyal customers, appalled at its earlier decision. I am not being triumphal about this; there will be many more battles in future on behalf of the Christian civilisation that my parish priest thinks is doomed. But it is an indication that Tesco is sensitive about, and listens to, customer feedback; that it has realised there is a big difference between charitable giving with practical benefits and funding “awareness-raising events”. The company has apologised and will change its policy in 2013. That is good enough for me for now. I have written to thank them.

  • Martley1

    What is wrong with you people? Every time you say and do these things to another human being you add misery and unhappiness to their lives.  How can that be right?  When will you get it that human sexualityt is something that varies across the spectrum.  It is not a choice, and it is neither moral or immoral, it is just a state of being.  And it has nothing to do with interpretations of the Bible. No matter what you say or do it will make no difference.  People will be gay, or striaght for ever. As it has always been so.  Oppressing and denying the rights of people to be themselves is pointless.  And the Catholic church has the opportunity to do so much good, and it does.  But these things just underrmine all that is good about it.  And besides Catholic organisations support people regardless of gender or sexuality anyway.  Here is an example.  I volunteered at The Fireside Day Centre in Birmingham many years ago.  It is tirelessly run by Catholic Sisters, many of whom never retire.  They support the homeless, and those rejected by scoiety everyday. Many came in who were prostitutes, gays, transgender, etc.  You name it and the whole gammit of human experience was there. And yet they were not turrned away but were treated with dignity and respect.  The Catholic church seriously needs to grow up and stop worryong about Tesco sponsoring a gay pride event.  Gay people must spend loads of money there in any case.  Seriously, you people are messed up. 

  • Ben

    This is very terribly sad. Misinformed bigotry. 

  • Martley1

    The only reason so called ‘militant’ gays protest against the Catholic church is because of the way it treats them.  Denying their basic human rights to love and be happy with whom they need to be with. You are one messed up person and my advice to you is to go out and live a real life.  I bet you work in a place where you never come into contact with people who need serious help.  Go out with a social worker doing child protection, or with a social worker working with older people who are left unsupported by the community. You will find that many people doing this very important work are gay themselves.  Yes not ‘militant’ gays but everyday gays supporting the vulnerable and protecting the needy.  Grow up!!

  • http://www.anarchic-teapot.net anarchic teapot

    It’s not the shareholders who make it possible for Tesco to function, but their staff.

  • Martley1

    Marcella I suggest you try to open your horizons and get a life.  Go outrmore, take up a hobby and even meet some real life gay people who will be nice to you and support you in changing your attitude to bigotry.  Imagine how much better you will feel by giving up all of this hateful behaviour and bitter feelings you have inside of you.  Because at the end of the day all you are making miserable is yourself.  Sure the gays as a group of people will be harmed by your nastiness, but individually none of them care.  Take me for instance.  At 46 years of age I am well balanced, hapy and in no way concerned at you spiteful and rather chidish behaviour.  I am so happy to be gay that you couldn’t possibly imagine. I have a successful career, money, a partner and loads of great friends and faamily.  I work tirelessly in the community to support vulnerable children, many of whom are abused by heterosexual people.  But I undertand and accept that I have to feel sorry for people like you, and trust that God in his mercy will assist you to have a change of heart, before you die and then go to hell for your nasty brehaviour.  God bless you xx

  • Martley1

    What are you on about?. How can anyone ‘act’ gay any more than a heterosexual can act ‘straight’? All of these perceptions are socially constructed notions anyway. Durrrrr!!

  • South Saxon

    “If Tesco have any money to spare, they should give it to their shareholders, the people who make it possible for them to function at all”.
    If Tesco have any money to spare, they should reduce prices

  • Bob Hayes

    Polling is not conducted in a political and cultural vacuum. The publicity (both negative and positive) surrounding the Pope’s visit will have influenced views. Just look at the wording of the questions, the first four are loaded against Catholic teaching in phasing of the question and/or answer. 

    If you don’t understand how polling works and how YouGov works you may be fooled into thinking there is something ‘scientific’ about these surveys.

  • Bob Hayes

    A remark that is surely indicative of Tesco’s big mistake in endorsing a political activity.

  • Bob Hayes

    Thank you for highlighting the good and compassionate work done by the Catholic Church. 

  • Songbirdemma

    “Sinful lifestyles?” What a lovely thing to say about my circle of friends. I’m glad you as a Christian are so easily able to hurt another human being. Incredible, just incredible.

  • Speaktoethan

    What do you mean “acting gay”, I take it you are referring to sodemy??? If that is the case I know plenty of women who like anal sex…I don’t see the church up in arms about them! Christianity is outright homophobic and outdated. The church is no longer connected with the majority of the people and the world we live in.

  • bert the bummer

    at the end of the day forget what the church has to say they are pretty much full of sh@t and if they don’t like some thing they are a very powerful organisation that when confronted with things they don’t like they can stomp there feet until they get an answer they want to hear!  As for there views on homosexuality i kind of see there point, i don’t consider my self homophobic, what i do believe is that who ever/however we were created we were created in a way that only allows us to continue as a race is by procreating with some one of the same sex! Am I wrong?

  • geoffreysmith1

    “You are one messed up person and my advice to you is to go out and live a real life.”

    If that is the case, then I am in very good company.  About 1.25 billion of company.

    Why have you wandered off the theme of this thread?  It’s all about Tesco paying out their shareholders’ money to stage a gay junket in the streets of our cities.  This company should not finance a private interest with money earned from the general public, especially when the interest concerned uses the occasion to vilify the Catholic Church with its obscene public prancing.

    Gays do not have the moral right to contract any sort of sexual relationship, and certainly not marriage.  They cannot have children which is what the social contract is all about.

  • geoffreysmith1

    Rubbish.  The staff did not float the company on the Stock Exchange, or pay out any of its capital.

  • Songbirdemma

    “Sinful lifestyles?” What a lovely thing to say about my circle of
    friends. I’m glad you as a Christian are so easily able to hurt another
    human being. Incredible, just incredible.

  • geoffreysmith1

    Is it my fault that you are so thick you can’t understand simple English?
    By acting gay I mean indulging in homosexual relations.
    The condition itself is not immoral, i.e. being gay, but acting gay, having sexual relations with another gay, most certainly is.  Geddit?

  • geoffreysmith1

    Don’t be so stupid.

  • http://www.queripel.org/ RichQ

    Geoffrey, Geoffrey, Geoffrey, it’s people like you that make the world the horrible place it can often be.  The psychological damage your hardline rhetoric does to young gay people is almost immeasurable.  Find something in the world that’s worth fighting against, like child poverty or racism, instead of railing against something you’ll never change.  And start thinking for yourself, instead of believing everything bigoted people and books tell you.  You were born an accepting, loving child.  You were not born a bigoted Catholic.

  • Martley1

    You’re welcome Bob, but please do NOT take my post as a support of the church’s stance on homosexuality. As one Nun said to me.  We all nbeed a figurehead to work through as a unifying force (ie: The Pope), but on the ground at the coal face of humanity people were NOT discriminated against for their sexuality, or whatever.  We all knew many were having so called ‘immoral’ relationships according to the Church, but this was accepted, and people were helped regardless.  Perhaps the people posting on here should take a note out of those sister’s book instead.

  • the devil you know

    i hope they can use the money for another good cause like stoning people who wear more then one fabric  or stopping people getting divorced after 2 days of marriage

    pride is about expression and human rights .  it is a political movement it is the opportunity for people gay straight trangender  whatever to celebrate equality . unlike the catholic church which is highly discriminatory pride welcomes everyone .

  • Willis

    I thought ‘God’ meant love? By your description there doesn’t seem to be a lot of loving. Even though I’m not a Catholic I have read the Bible, and to my knowledge it doesn’t give you the right to cast judgement on a gay human being or speak for God. Please let Him have his own voice and allow yourself to be a good Catholic. It’s the quality of life and relationship that’s important, not the type. Being gay does not mean being immoral and your comments seem to highlight your need and fear to use the Bible as a weapon, instead of using your wisdom to use it for connecting with people. 

  • Martley1

    Well Geoffrey if you blindly wish to take bits from the Bible and apply them to current scientific and also social understandings of human sexuality, then I feel sorry for you.  I would think in other parts of your life that you are an intelligent and articulate person with a brain.  And I’m sorry but there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with being gay whatsoever.  NOTHING you say or want to write will ever make one ounce of diffeence to the way that I, and millions of other people feel. No vile misinformed garbage about a whole section of peoploe, all of whom are as diverse as wider society, will make any difference in the end.  After many years you people are now on the losing side, and unless you come into the 21st century you will slide into the oblivion that you truly deserve.  Gay people no longer care what you think, and if you lived next door to me I would say exactly the same thing to you directly as I would on here. So jog on…..

  • the devil you know

    why is it if we get angry about being insulted and abused by a political and religious institution we get called militant  . when that institution has started more wars and inspired more rapes ,  killings wars and harbored more pedophiles, suppressed the rights of women  and encouraged slavery .  calling us militant is just wrong .

    though if we did form a militia there would be real trouble there’s a lot of us and we look just like you 

    while your at it ponder this would you abort your kid if you knew he or she would grow up to be gay ?

  • Willis

    Do Catholics not believe in the sanctity of all life? If they do then you are not a good example of a Catholic. 

  • Nero

    Congratulations, Jesus would be proud. From what I remember the main thrust of his argument was that we should at all costs prevent people from loving who they want, right?

  • http://www.queripel.org/ RichQ

    Dear Sir,

    Have you ever been to London Pride?  I’ve marched in it twice as part of the London Gay Men’s Chorus and was extremely proud to do so.  I can assure you that I did not engage in any lewd behaviour or simulated sex acts along the route, although I did join in a rousing rendition of “I am what I am” when faced with the hideously homophobic placards of the hardline Christians near Trafalgar Square (mostly pentecostal protestants, I believe, and not Catholics).  You make it sound as though the London Pride march is a bacchanalian orgy, which, I’m sorry to say, is nonsense.  Yes, there are some men in swimwear.  You’d see more on a beach.  Yes, people are happy and some will be drinking.  I’ve been with many Catholics who would drink a darn sight more.  And, yes, some couples will be holding hands and may share a kiss or two.  It is their right to do so.  You and the Catholic church, I’m afraid to tell you, do not have the monopoly on rights, even if you feel you’re being led by a higher power, earthly or otherwise.  

    Maybe next year you’d like to accompany me on the London Pride march and I could show you what a fantastic and powerful event it is, and how much it, and many other events with similar intentions, have made me realise that I am loved and deserve to be loved.  And that God made me just the way I am for a reason.  

    I’m sure if we looked carefully we could all name a lot of behaviour that Christians (including those of the Catholic denomination) engage in that is contrary to what the Bible decreed 2000+ years ago.  You’ll know all the arguments about what wasn’t acceptable according to Leviticus, and which now, mysteriously, somehow is acceptable.  Homosexuality is as natural as you and I.  Why don’t you do something really bold and stand up for gay people, instead of compounding the misery of young gay people in your Church, whose lives must be hellish as a result of your telling them that their natural inclinations are wrong?

    Yours sincerely,

    Richard
    http://www.queripel.org

  • http://twitter.com/danielsturman Daniel Sturman

    “Gays do not have the moral right to contract any sort of sexual relationship, and certainly not marriage.  They cannot have children which is what the social contract is all about.” 

    So presumably you must be vehemently against infertile heterosexual couples from getting married? 

    Thought so.  

  • http://twitter.com/Alan_RTH Alan Newman

    No you’re right, I’m sure if all of Tesco’s minimum wage staff left tomorrow then the shareholders would have no problem manning the tills, stacking the shelves and dealing with the customers!

  • Martley1

    Ahh and there you have it. This issue about gay people being immoral. That’s the thing that you use all the time to beat the gays with.  It’s irrelevant to us at this point. We do not care whether we are thought of as immoral or otherwise.  Sexuality is just a state of ‘being’ nothing nore or less. Immorality is just a social construction YOU place on it to make people feel bad. But it is no longer working because gay people are now visible in a way that people like you thought they never would be.  The internet, social networking and the rest has driven chamges that you will never be able to stop. And they are changes for the better.

    And I certainly have not wandered off the topic, although I have positioned it into the wider discussion about gay people and Catholics.  The topics are all interconnected.  And anyway why shouldn’t Tesco support the event as many gay people shop there I’m sure? You are certianly correct that they are ‘our’ cities, and so in a free country people should be able to hold a festival if they so choose.  Furthermoe, the money that Tesco makes is not earned from the general public through force. They choose to go there. That’s capitalism for you. Businesses promote themselves to different sections of the community in order to raise awareness of the brand.  If you thought a little harder you might even deduce that Tesco has probably only sponsored the event to try to get more money put of gay people, and also raise brand awareness in London during the 2012 Olympic year. 

    And as for gay people ‘prancing’ I am sure that many heterosexual people also ‘prance’ at events, or whatever they do at a festival or party. For example, there is much ‘prancing’ going on at the Notting Hill Carnival, so your argyment does not stack up.  also I personally have NEVER pranced around, but if people feel the need to themselves, then I am not going to get wound up about it.

    Finally, you will see that gays do have children. Many women have them from male partners and the like, whilst many gay men have them too. They may not have had them within the confines of heterosexuality, but they have them. Moroever, I know of at least two friends who now have grown up children from a gay / straight relationship arrangements and they are all seemingly hetrerosexual adults.  Because when you pick away at the heart of your vitriol it IS partley about the influence of gays on children and soaciety isn’t it?  But the reality is that there is not one shred of evidence that any exposure to homosexuality negaitively influences childen as they grow up.  And as for society, it has benefited from the gays for hundreds of years. So stop being so ungrateful, embrace you fellow gay human beings, and celebrate them. Gee, the way you go on anyone would think you were secretly gay yourself.

  • Willis

    Why are Catholics so obsessed with matters regarding to sex? And why do you worry about people vilifying the Catholic Church if you can boast so many followers? Is your Religion so weak it is not allowed to be questioned or attacked?

  • http://twitter.com/lproven Liam Proven

    You are no Christian. Yeshweh taught his followers to love their neighbours, to turn the other cheek, to accept those who were different to them. A true Christian is accepting, tolerant, understanding, welcoming. 

    You are fostering bigotry and hatred. You are not a Christian of any form, and you bring shame upon your own religion.

  • the devil you know

    its our bodies .  we have every right to sexual relationships . were consenting adults .

    also  marriage isn’t just about the children . financial security and inheritance comes into it . also formally declaring your love for another human being .

    its also about preventing things like the end of this video  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=BZU-HQ_c8bg

    we cannot have children . either can infertile couples . and women with hysterectomies  would you take their marriage rights away ?

  • Annie

    Charlie,

    Medical personnel in the U.S. now are being told not to give mouth-to-mouth anymore.  The source?  My daughter, who’s a nursing student. This is in New Jersey; I presume it’s being enacted everywhere else in the States.  The reason is to protect m.p. from being infected by the patient/victim.  Don’t be surprised if Great Britain is doing it soon too.

  • DDRey

    “Gays do not have the moral right to contract any sort of sexual relationship, and certainly not marriage.”

    And what gives you the right to cast such judgement?

  • Dom

    How dare christians think they have the right to demand something like this of a company. Christianity’s hatred and disapproval of homosexuals stems from one passage in the bible, in that same passage it also condemns wearing clothes of more than one fabric. I’m fairly sure you lot are all dirty sinners, just like us homosexuals. It sickens me that such a corrupt and disgusting religion is continuing to recruit so many. The majority of Christians are loving and caring people, it’s a shame that there is a minority of militant christians which are stuck in the dark ages, yet refuse to acknowledge the strong possibility that their religion is a farce with a complete lack of evidence.

  • http://twitter.com/danielsturman Daniel Sturman

    I love the mix that makes up the Catholic faith. 
    Just read these comments. 
    Some of them are level-headed and tempered and some are daemon-evoking and creepy, yet both see eye-to-eye on an issue that they must know that within ten years, twenty at the most, the Pope will be declaring perfectly acceptable. What then? Will these Catholics begin to believe whole-hearted that they never ever thought that this *insert group* were hellbound? Or will gays be hellbound until the 3rd of April 2019 when Pope X the X declares it?Think Jews. The saddest thing is that no Catholic would ever read this and give it a moment’s consideration.

  • http://twitter.com/LukeBenoit08 Luke Bennett

    Disgusted Tesco did this. And how backwards are you lot for forcing this complete non-issue? Jesus Christ. Its pathetic and your religion is pathetic for enforcing such stupid rules. Theres a reason why hardly anybody attends church and its

    a) Because it’s all a fairytale
    b) Your rules are old-fashioned, complete bullshit and refuse to move with the times.

  • http://twitter.com/Alan_RTH Alan Newman

    Would you give mouth-to-mouth to a straight woman? Surely as she has the same sexual interests as a Gay man then she is likely to have “been” in exactly the same places. 

    By your logic surely this indicates that you would also not like to kiss a straight woman? And by that logic would only kiss a person who has been sexual with a woman, thus leaving only straight men and gay women. As I’m sure you’re against gay woman as well then that only leaves straight men available for you to have relations with. 

    Does this mean you are a closet homosexual who is only attracted to straight men? Have I just outed you? 

  • http://twitter.com/TotallyBB TotallyBigBrother

    This whole website and article absolutely astounds me… Tesco are allowed to support whoever they like, you are only kicking up a fuss because they are supporting LGBT, which to be honest, needs to support from people like you… What a load of shit!

  • http://twitter.com/AlfieJudasGreen ❝AlfieGreen.❞ † ∇

    This whole website and article absolutely astounds me… Tesco are allowed to support whoever they like, you are only kicking up a fuss because they are supporting LGBT, which to be honest, needs to support away from people like you… What a load of shit! What gives YOU the right to judge other people? No, there is no right… Gays, Lesbians, they all have a place in our society and if yo don’t like it. TOUGH!

  • http://twitter.com/danielsturman Daniel Sturman

    I remember reading somewhere that if the UK had more “Scandinavian” labour laws then Tesco would close in a couple months. 

    Low pay makes it possible for Tesco to function. 

  • Scott

    Honestly, what a bunch of judgemental people you really are.  It’s you straight people that keep making gay babies, take a look at yourselves.

  • Alfie Green

    This whole website and article absolutely astounds me… Tesco are allowed to support whoever they like, you are only kicking up a fuss because they are supporting LGBT, which to be honest, needs to support away from people like you… What a load of shit! What gives YOU the right to judge other people? No, there is no right… Gays, Lesbians, they all have a place in our society and if yo don’t like it. TOUGH!

  • JamesBrandon

    It is funny to see how homossexuals have become a new and powerful caste nowadays. In times when everybody were treated equally, homossexual acts were duly seen as grave acts against the 6th Commandment, as were grave acts against the other 9 Commandments. Today to remember this simples truth is deemed bigotry. Everyone who is prone to a vice must control himself. For this reason, who has a tendency to drunkness, or who is a kleptomaniac must control themselves, and normally are ashamed if they don’t. To have an irresistible urge to steal do not justify theft. The same apply to adultery. It is normal that a Catholic treats drunkards, kleptomaniac, homossexuals, and even killers, with charity, in order to help them to win their vices. It is neither wise nor coherent normal that Catholics treat homossexuals better than other people.

  • BillBass

    Wow, I’m Another Great Day In The Long Book Of Prejudice And Triumphant Bigotry That Is Religious History. 
    I Really Hope You’re Not Proud Of This.

  • the devil you know
  • S Burton

    This is disgusting!

  • http://twitter.com/Alan_RTH Alan Newman

    He’s not being stupid he is making a valid point. Unfortunately you are to close minded to notice! 

    Both Gay and Straight people flaunt their relationships and their sexuality. I would argue that you will see far more “inappropriate” behaviour from straight couples than gay couples so why are you not protesting against the behaviour you witnessed in Ely Cathedral if you are ok with both sexualities behind closed doors?

    That way the point and it wasn’t stupid! 

  • http://twitter.com/danielsturman Daniel Sturman

    But the countries in the world that are “better”, which generally means safer, wealthier, better educated, etc are also the most progressive regarding gay rights. In fact I believe the Prime Minister of Denmark (might have been the Netherlands) said as much that you couldn’t have a fairer and safer society and somehow maintain a religious/nationalist prejudice.