Friday, 19 December 2014

Can the DUP answer a simple question?

Yesterday on BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show (about 34:30) Paul Givan, the author of the conscience clause bill, was asked a rather simple question.

"Do the DUP still want to make gay sex illegal?"

He did all he could to squirm out of answering it, saying he was dealing in the real world, even saying it was irrelevant to his conscience clause. He said his party didn't want to go back 20 years, although his conscience clause does go some way back removing some of the protections established here only 8 years ago.

But it is a relevant question, there have been slips through the years. Sammy Wilson, then the Minister for Finance and Personnel on 1 Oct 2012 said:

"I do not agree with the Civil Partnership Act 2004. As Mr Allister pointed out, that was the toe in the door and a means for pushing the boundaries even further in a direction that I, and the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland, do no wish them to be pushed as fas as changes in society are concerned."

It is hard to determine if the later Sexual Orientaion Regualtions to the Equality Act were part of this pushing the boundaries as these comments did come in the first Equal Marriage debate in the Assembly.

Today we have Edwin "Keep the Blood Ban" Poots trying to defend his party to claims of bigotry from Stephen Fry. Saying:

"While the debate takes place we can keep putting out a message that this isn't about an attack on people's rights, it's actually a defence of people's rights.
"I think that is part of the problem – every time someone says something it is put out there we are taking rights away from people but that's not what it's about."

There is therefore concern that I cannot recall one incidence of a DUP elected representative actually standing up and speaking in favour of any LGBT equality issue. By that I don't mean saying something like "the law says" in making a statement but actually saying "I or my party support the right of LGBT people to...". I also do not recall (and I have checked through Hansard both at Westminster and Stormont) a single DUP vote in favour of LGBT legislation.

There is a pattern of behaviour from the DUP of which Mr Givan's bill is just the latest manifestation, that at every step they have opposed LGBT equality. Whether the decriminalisation, civil partnerships, equality act provisions, blood ban, adoption, marriage.

So therefore a very relevant question for the DUP to answer is "Does the DUP still want to recriminalise gay sex?"

Because if so their conscience clause in the words of Sammy Wilson above is just a toe in the door and a means for pushing the boundaries even further in a direction that the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland would have a conscience objection to if they were to know the end desire.

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