National Trust ends restriction on volunteers who refuse to wear rainbow badges

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The National Trust has reversed a decision to bar volunteers from public-facing duties at a Norfolk stately home if they refuse to wear rainbow sexual equality symbols.

Staff at Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk were offered behind-the-scenes roles after saying they were "uncomfortable" wearing multicoloured badges and lanyards for a "Prejudice and Pride" event marking 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality.

The decision came after a new film made by the National Trust revealed that Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, the hall's last owner who bequeathed it to the nation, was gay.

The land and home conservation charity said on Saturday that wearing the badges was now "optional and a personal decision" for volunteers and staff.

A trust spokesman said: "We remain absolutely committed to our Pride programme, which will continue as intended, along with the exhibition at Felbrigg.

"However, we are aware that some volunteers had conflicting personal opinions about wearing the rainbow lanyards and badges. 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 change followed an announcement on Friday by Annabel Smith, the trust's head of volunteering and participation development, who said that volunteers uncomfortable with the badges had been offered "the opportunity to take a break from front-facing duties if that's what they would prefer".

She added: "Relating specifically to the Prejudice and Pride programme, we do recognise that some volunteers may have conflicting personal opinions.

"However whilst volunteering for the National Trust we do request and expect individuals to uphold the values of the organisation."