Northern Ireland's DUP Want to Add an Anti-Gay Clause To The Country's Equality Laws

Today's post is more of a call to action than anything else. We're asking anyone who reads this blog to PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE take 2 minutes to sign this.

Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is trying to add an anti-gay clause to the country's current equality laws. The clause is designed to protect those who feel any endorsement of same-sex relationships would be a violation of a personal belief system or faith.

When they say 'endorsement' they're not talking about active endorsement. They're talking about commercial endorsement: between a business or service provider and the customer.

In simple terms, it means that a gay couple could be refused service in a restaurant. It means that they could be asked to leave a hotel or be forced to look elsewhere for somewhere to live.

It stems from the current court battle between Ashers Baking Company and The Equality Commission. Last year, when a customer asked Ashers to bake a cake with a pro-gay message for International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia the bakery said no.

Ashers believed that making a pro-equality cake would compromise their businesses' Christian values. They've since been taken to court for discrimination.

The equality laws are designed to protect people from inequality, and for the DUP the real inequality is suffered by those who feel compromised by homosexuality.

Of course, people have the right to practice their religion. Of course, people have the right to be gay. The problem is the sticking point between the two and the lengths either side will go to in order to defend those rights. Religion has always played a central role in the social and political environment of Northern Ireland but surely, if there's a compromise to be made then it shouldn't be made at the expense of the LGBT community.

The DUP however, does not believe that the clause will have an adverse effect on gay couples. They do not think it would allow "an Evangelical grocer … to refuse to sell apples to a gay man." The National Secularist Society disagree. When they asked a lawyer about the clause he said that the breadth of its draft was such that it could easily be used to justify discrimination. He wrote:

 "The courts have allowed individuals to determine for themselves what their faith requires. If the printer knows that the cabinet maker will use profits from the sale of the cabinets to pay for a romantic weekend away with her partner or to pay for their wedding, he may conclude that printing the brochures does involve facilitating sinful conduct."

It's clear to see where the clause could be open up discrimination.

The wedding industry is especially vulnerable to this: the cake company, the caterer, the dressmaker, the suit shop, the hotel, the venue, the DJ, the florist, the jeweler, the celebrant, the stationer, the photographer...

The moment the partner's name is mentioned then the gig could be up.

There's already a lot of pressure against the clause, and it certainly feels like a step backward for a country already facing criticism for its ban on gay marriage. Sinn Fein has joined with other pro-equality parties to help oppose the ban, but it might not be enough.

Please take a couple of minutes to sign the petition against the clause.

Thanks :)

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