Monday 1 May 2017

Chain Males : Part 1

Following on from my article on female mayors in March I bring a look at members of the lgbt community who have held mayoral office. We begin with a small group who have held the office of Lord Mayor.

Let’s being, though, with a definition of a Lord Mayor. The office is most associated with the UK. Towns with mayors may receive letters patent from the sovereign granting or confirming the status of Lord Mayor onto the town mayor. This usually happens when the town is simultaneously elevated to city status. Even though cities existed before 1893 by being the seat of a bishopric, only London and York had Lords Mayor before that year.

The title of Lord does not give them a place in the House of Lords. “Lord” is a term used to signify special recognition from the Crown (as also in Lord Lieutenant and Lord Justice) and indicates the office not the person. As such, any female holder of the office is also called Lord Mayor, not Lady Mayor or Lady Mayoress (which is a traditional courtesy title given to the wife of a mayor). Lords Mayor are civic heads of their city, the “Chief Citizen”, and not the head of the governing city council (usually titled the Leader of the Council) though are selected by their council from one of their elected members.

By the way, the Lord Mayor of London and the Mayor of London are two different titles. The Lord Mayor is the civic head of the old City of London, and the Mayor is the elected political head of the larger Greater London area covering many towns, cities and boroughs of which the City of London is just one part.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way lets turn to the lgbt Lords Mayor themselves. The illustration below shows you their locations. All of them in England were entitled to use the coat of arms of their city during their term of office. In Australia, Wollongong has no coat of arms, and in Melbourne the named office holder was Deputy Lord Mayor and not entitled to use the city arms.

Here is a list of the Lords Mayor in chronological order:

David Campbell – Wollongong, Australia, 1991-9.
Robert Davis – Westminster, UK, 1996-7.
Gary Singer – Melbourne (Deputy), Australia, 2004-6.
Colin Inglis – Kingston-upon-Hull, UK, 2011-12.
Leon Unczur – Nottingham, UK, 2012-12.
Gary Millar – Liverpool, UK, 2013-14.
Carl Austin-Behan – Manchester, UK, 2016-17.

Immediately, it is clear that all of them are male. There has not yet been any female Lords Mayor from the lgbt community to my knowledge. All of the men listed, with the exception of Robert Davis in 1997, were openly gay before they took office.

Robert Davis came out in 2007 when he and his partner announced their Civil Partnership. Here is another example of the confusion that can arise with the London mayors. Robert and his partner Simon Milton (d.2011) were publicly elected Westminster city councillors. The council appointed Robert Lord Mayor of Westminster in 1996. In 2008 Simon (by now Sir Simon) was appointed Deputy Mayor of London, the larger London that covers many boroughs as well as the cities of London and Westminster. Confusing? It is to a lot of Londoners as well! Having said that, Robert and Sir Simon are the only lgbt couple who have both held mayoral office, though not simultaneously.

Of the other Lords Mayor on the list I have mentioned Leon Unzcur several times on my blog before, mainly because he was also the first openly gay Sheriff of Nottingham and because I know him quite well. Unfortunately he has suffering from parkinson’s disease and I don’t see him around very often.

Perhaps the most surprising connection is the appointment of Carl Austin-Behan. He has been a Manchester city councillor since 2011, but his earlier claim to fame was as Mr. Gay UK 2001. His term of office as Lord Mayor ends officially in the next few days.

In the next Chain Male article I look at the international mayors (mayors in the USA will be looked at later in the year).

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