In the wake of the Orlando shootings, only true equality can bring an end to hate

HOMOPHOBIA is a difficult word. It means, quite literally, “fear” of homosexuality.

But the person who murdered 49 innocent people and injured many more in that Orlando nightclub was not afraid. He was full of hate.

Homophobic is, however, the best term we have to describe the violent, bigoted, angry man who killed so many this weekend.

The scale of Orlando is appalling, as it was in Paris and all the other terrorist atrocities. Orlando was different in that it deliberately targeted gay people – it was a terrorist and a homophobic attack.

So the expressions of solidarity are important – the rainbow flag flying half mast on Scottish Government buildings , candlelit vigils, the silence observed by MSPs in parliament yesterday. Scotland and the world are standing in solidarity.

But is it enough? Despite the rainbow colours lighting up landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the world as a whole is not universally gay-friendly. The violence of the gunman is replicated in the laws of many countries.

Fourteen states have a death penalty for homosexuality, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. In Iran and Saudi Arabia, recent executions have happened using such laws.

The death penalty also remains on the books of Sudan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Nigeria, Somalia, Mauritania, Qatar and Pakistan. This doesn’t include the territory controlled by Isis, and lawless parts of Iraq where militias regularly murder people for acts of same sex intimacy.

We hear about ISIS throwing gay men off buildings. But what about the legalised murder of gay people by countries which are considered “allies”? Do we condemn them enough? We must remember that horrific homophobia, short of execution, is on the state books of another 77 countries.

And that’s before you even count countries who fail to protect LGBTI minorities from discrimination.

Read the rest of my column here.


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