National Trust U-turn over LGBTQ badges for volunteers

The National Trust has reversed a decision to make some volunteers work away from the public after they refused to wear sexual equality symbols.

Staff and volunteers at Felbrigg Hall, a stately home in Norfolk, were asked to wear badges and lanyards in support of an LGBTQ campaign.

But 30 of the 350 volunteers were offered duties away from the public after choosing not to wear them.

In a statement, the trust said it would now be an “optional” decision.

A spokesman also confirmed all volunteers could resume their public-facing roles and it was “business as usual”.

The row was sparked following the National Trust’s Prejudice and Pride campaign to mark the 50th anniversary of homosexuality being decriminalised.

As part of the campaign the conservation charity released a film revealed Felbrigg’s last lord, Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, was gay, which was known by close friends.

However, in an article in the Telegraph last week, the lord’s godchildren criticised the move, saying it was unfair of the organisation to “out” someone who chose to keep his sexuality secret. Several volunteers were reported to have agreed with them.

On Saturday morning the National Trust released a statement announcing its U-turn.

“We are aware some volunteers had conflicting, personal opinions about wearing the rainbow lanyards and badges,” the charity said.

“That was never our intention.

“We are therefore making it clear to volunteers that the wearing of the badge is optional and a personal decision.”

The trust initially defended its decision.

On Friday, Annabel Smith, head of volunteering and participation development, said: “All of our staff and volunteers sign up to our founding principles when they join us – we are an organisation that is for ever, for everyone.”

Earlier on Saturday the trust’s director general, Dame Helen Ghosh, had a letter published in The Telegraph, also backing the organisation’s original decision.

“At Felbrigg a small proportion of our 350 volunteers have not been comfortable with the [Prejudice and Pride] programme,” she wrote.

“They are free to step back from the volunteer role or take a different role for the duration [of the exhibition].”

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