Sunday, 1 February 2015

Conscience Clause: What the people say

BBC NI have on their online news managed to cover the No Conscience Clause protests this afternoon without any quotes from the speakers who were present. This is kind of sad especially as the Belfast protest took place at City Hall, which regular viewers will know that the rear of City Hall is often a backdrop used for new reports as the back of Broadcasting House is actually at the other end of a street that leads straight to the site. For people not used to Belfast this is only a few minutes away.

Therefore to make up for the BBC's shameful omission here are some of the things that people said form the platform.

Brian Kennedy (singer-songwriter): "[The Conscience Clause] is an attack on LGBT human rights and ironically the only thing that’s truly in the closet is the hatred, cowardice and inhumanity of these people towards the LGBT community and their friends and families in Northern Ireland.

"Mr Givan and the DUP. Get out of my gay life!"

Naomi Long MP (Alliance, East Belfast): "I am a passionate advocate of freedom of conscience and belief but this clause will not advance that. In fact, this legislation will open the door for further exemptions to rights and equality, which will ultimately affect us all. Only by protecting the rights and freedoms of others can we defend and secure our own rights in society. This proposal, far from being a conscience clause, is a charter for discrimination against the LGBT community and an assault on wider equality provisions. The law already allows reasonable balance between rights of conscience and obligations under equality law.

"I say 'no' to this conscience clause because I say 'yes' to freedom of conscience and belief; I say 'no' to this conscience clause because I say 'yes' to equality and human rights for all; I say 'no' to this conscience clause and I look forward to the day when the Assembly will say 'no' to it as well."

William Ennis (PUP Belfast City Councillor): "Why to the people of Northern Ireland need a conscience clause, when the people of England, Wales and Scotland do not?"

"This conscience clause amounts to nothing other than the DUP's desire to mould an elite society rather than an equal one."

Patrick Corrigan (NI director Amnesty International): "This is not about freedom of religion, this is about the freedom to treat a section of our population as second class citizens.

"This change to the law is not welcome and it is not needed . . . The law already strikes a fair balance between the human right to freedom of religion and the human right not to suffer discrimination.

 "Northern Ireland's first minister should concentrate on eradicating the inequalities already faced by members of the LGBTI community, rather than lending his support to a further discriminatory law.

 "He could start by publishing the long overdue sexual orientation strategy, which could help tackle the underlying homophobia in this society."

As well as Naomi Long, Gerry Kelly of Sinn Féin, Alex Attwood for the SDLP and Claire Bailey of the Greens also spoke as did representatives of People Before Profit and PUP. The UUP along with the DUP were noted for their absence.

Rev Chris Hudson of All Souls Church and trade unionists and other activists also spoke from the stage before Dervla McGaughey who set up the petition against the Clause which now has over 18,000 signatures to say how great it was as a success from the ordinary people. Chris Hudson actually called for other church leaders to stand up and speak out in public instead of just telling him things in private.

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