John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, has called for an end to the "shameful" criminalisation of homosexuality in four out of five Commonwealth countries ahead of the Games due to start in Glasgow this week.
The senior MP said it was not right that there might be world-class athletes who will not be able to compete in the Commonwealth Games, as they will have been discriminated against on the basis of their sexuality.
Speaking on the eve of Wednesday’s opening ceremony, in a challenge to the UK government and other countries to act, he said: "Shamefully, it is estimated that 4 out of every 5 countries in the Commonwealth criminalise homosexuality. Surely, it is time for the Commonwealth to do more to support lesbian, gay, transsexual and bisexual people, to ensure they are not discriminated against, no matter where they live?"
Bercow, who will attend the Games, said it was a "fantastic sporting occasion" and "wonderful opportunity to celebrate the spirit of the Commonwealth", but suggested the event has been overshadowed by the grouping’s poor record on LBGT rights.
David Cameron and Alex Salmond have come under increasing pressure to speak out about the issue, after campaign groups highlighted the fact that 42 out of 53 countries in the Commonwealth criminalise homosexuality
Earlier, Peter Tatchell, the equal rights campaigner, urged Salmond to "appeal to all participating countries to adhere to Article 7 of the Commonwealth Games Federation constitution, which prohibits all discrimination".
Tatchell said: "Countries that refuse to support Article 7 – or that perpetuate discrimination in access to sports facilities, training camps or team selection – should be barred from participating in the Commonwealth Games. If they are not prepared to abide by Article 7 they have no right to come to Glasgow or future Commonwealth Games.
"The intensity of homophobia in these countries is so great that it is very unlikely that they would select a LGBTI athlete to compete in Glasgow. I can’t imagine homophobic states like Uganda, Brunei or Nigeria selecting a LGBTI athlete. They are more likely to jail them than send them to Glasgow.
"In addition, there is widespread gender and ethnic discrimination in many Commonwealth countries, which also inhibits equal, open and fair selection for the national teams coming to Glasgow."
Asked about the issue, Salmond told an audience of international media representatives that the country demonstrated its commitment to equal rights and non-discrimination at the Pride Glasgow events over the course of the Games.
"In St Andrew’s House, we fly the rainbow flag, sometimes called the pride flag internationally, for the course of the Games," he said. "So, we demonstrate our commitment and we provide an exemplar in terms of what we believe in.
"That’s what I think is the best way to state our commitment, it’s by what we do and how we act and what we display and what we advocate."
Chancellor George Osborne also spoke to business representatives in Glasgow on Tuesday but did not mention the issue of discrimination in Commonwealth countries. He made a plea for Scotland and the rest of the UK to stay together in order to prosper.
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