Two major sponsors of Stonewall's annual awards dinner have threatened to pull the plug on funding if the gay rights group does not withdraw its controversial 'Bigot Of The Year' award - after pressure from a Christian lobby group.
'Bigot of the Year' - which last year was awarded to Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips, is for those who have, according to Stonewall, "gone out of their way to harm, hurt or snub lesbian, gay and bisexual people in the last year".
This year's nominees include a former MP, an archbishop, and a cardinal.
Stonewall at London Gay Pride
Christian Concern, a religious rights group, urged its members to target the sponsors of Thursday's event, which include Barclays, PwC and the Queen's bank, Coutts & Co.
Both Coutts & Co and Barclays have threatened to withdraw future support for Stonewall if the award is not dropped.
Christian Concern said in a statement: "Labelling people 'Bigots' for expressing a mainstream view on a crucial issue is an attempt to intimidate and shut down public debate.
"Sadly, we're not surprised by Stonewall's tactics of mockery and ridicule."
In a letter to those concerned, seen by The Huffington Post UK, Mark McLane, head of Global Diversity and Inclusion at Barclays, said: "As part of what is a positive longstanding relationship with Stonewall we were approached to see if we would be willing to sponsor a category for the 2012 Awards, which we agreed to do – the Sports Personality of the Year – on the understanding that the awards are a celebration of diversity and positive impact in our communities.
"I have recently been made aware of the inclusion of a ‘Bigot of the Year’ category in the awards.
"Let me be absolutely clear that Barclays does not support that award category either financially, or in principle and have informed Stonewall that should they decide to continue with this category we will not support this event in the future.
"To label any individual so subjectively and pejoratively runs contrary to our view on fair treatment, and detracts from what should be a wholly positively focused event."
Coutts & Co said in a statement: "Coutts are sponsors only of Stonewall's Writer of the Year Award and have in no way been involved in the judging or support of the Bigot of the Year category.
"We have advised Stonewall that we will be withdrawing our support of the awards unless they remove this category."
A spokesman for the bank told The Huffington Post UK that no representatives from Coutts & Co will be attending the awards on Thursday, unless the category is removed.
Stonewall's Andy Wasley told The Huffington Post UK: "This award will go ahead regardless on Thursday. But it is important to stress that the nominees for this award are not people who just disagree with us.
"We're really happy to have civilised discussions around issues that we raise. But these nominees are much more than that, some of them have called homosexuality akin to bestiality and child abuse. Their words speak for themselves."
Five people have been shortlisted for the 'Bigot' award. They include the Catholic Archbishop of Glasgow Philip Tartaglia who suggested that the late David Cairns MP may have died because he was gay, and Simon Lokodo, the Ugandan ethics and integrity minister for his treatment of gay campaigners in the country.
Alan Craig, the former leader of the Christian People's Alliance, who said gay rights activists were the "Gaystapo" invading Europe like the Nazis, has also been nominated.
Nominee Lord Ken Maginnis, the former Ulster Unionist MP, left the party in August after he said allowing gay marriage would be a “rung on the ladder” towards bestiality.
The final nominee is Cardinal Keith O'Brien, who told Radio 4 gay unions were an "aberration".
The event is to be held at the Victoria & Albert Museum, hosted by Gok Wan.
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