The headline on the BBC website "" provoked predictable outrage. Predictable but, in my view, misdirected.
The anger of those who demanded (successfully) that it be changed was understandable, although as a gay man I was no more offended than if it had read "Did the Jews deserve the Holocaust?" or "Is the US right to execute more blacks than whites?" In each case the question is so outrageous that it doesn't deserve to be dignified with an answer. But that doesn't mean it shouldn't be asked.
If we want to live in a liberal democracy in which free speech is a right to be defended in all but the most extreme circumstances then we must be prepared to be offended. If I demand the freedom – as I do – to condemn Islam for its denigration of women then I must be prepared to accept the right of others to condemn my lifestyle. I know there is no moral equivalence but I prefer to argue it out in public than to silence any part of the debate.
The BBC should be congratulated not only for upholding the right to free expression, but also for exporting it worldwide as it does through the kind of programme that discussed . Thanks to , the voices of those gay men and women in Uganda and elsewhere who face a lifetime of oppression and even the threat of death could be heard with respect.
Yes we should be offended. Yes we should condemn such a monstrous denial of basic human rights. But it is those countries that continue to criminalise people for the way they were born – whether in , the Middle East, Asia or wherever – that should be the object of our anger.
The has done us – gay and straight alike – a great service. It has brought home to us, through the responses the question received, just how much ugly homophobia still exists in our own country. We may have legislated for equal rights but this has been a timely reminder that equality under the law does not guarantee the freedom to live without fear of verbal or physical attack.
It has also brought to wider attention a story from that would have remained – with no disrespect to this paper's own editorial staff – somewhere on page 13 of the Guardian.
The headline may have been insensitive. The journalist who wrote it probably wishes she or he never had. It made a lot of people very angry. That matters not a jot so long as they come to recognise where that anger should really be directed.