Saturday 13 October 2018

The real toll of the battle for LGBT+ recognition in Northern Ireland

It has been a tough few days for me at the end of the week. When the UK Supreme Court ruling was made, on International Day for Mental Health Awareness of all days, it was tough mentally to go along with the tough time I've been having physically returning to work after a long time off with sciatica.

It wasn't so much the fact that this time the opinion went in the favour of the McArthur family who run Ashers it was the comments, "celebrations", attack on the Equality Commission and everything else. What was worse is that many of the arguments were being retrod from the 5th or even 6th time since the event.

Now with a court decision in their favour those opposed to LGBT+ equality or even recognition and dignity for LGBT+ people were speaking as if nothing was ever wrong.

The same arguments that Ashers shop on the main shopping street of Belfast had been targeted, when it was merely convenient. That the appellant was only out for money, he wasn't indeed he was shocked to be awarded £500 in the original case, he only wanted the law to be clarified. That somehow promoting LGBT+ Equality is equated with messages of outright hate and should all be lumped up together is one of the hardest hitting.

You see many of us in Northern Ireland have been facing arguments that we are attacking religious freedom, despite many of us coming from a position of faith ourselves. Indeed Marriage Equality legislation and policy formation has consistently recognised that not all faith groups have the same opinion. Indeed we have always ensured that faith groups need freedom under Equal Marriage legislation to take their own positions, nothing should be imposed on them. However, certain faith groups don't envision this and even want to overstep into the civil marriage sphere over which they should have no control.

So when you see LGBT+ people in Northern Ireland showing despair with the interventions of Peter Tatchell it is because his comments gave powder to the Theocrats in Northern Ireland. Sadly although Northern Ireland poses as a democracy, despite the largest party being called the Democratic Unionist Party what we face and they are, are actually Theocrats. God's law by their narrow interpretation has to have authority over everyone else.

Not all Christian politicians take this view Alliance leader Naomi Long and her predecessor David Ford are two prime examples who face attacks from Christians and criticism from LGBT+ people in equal measure. They are an example along with other that having a faith doesn't mean attacking LGBT+ people and that faith and being LGBT+ are not exclusive sets, there is a subset of both.

So faith groups, publications and individuals rejoicing this week has a hard impact on those of us from the LGBT+ community, whether of faith or not, who try to accommodate them.

A bit late in the week but I wasn't in a good place to wish everyone good mental health earlier in the week, But stay strong people others are always there for you to turn to and you know who they are even in your darkest times.

Thursday 11 October 2018

How LGBT+ Servers Should React to the Supreme Court Ruling

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

So today I read that the photography company that the Christian Institute hired to record their appearance outside the Supreme Court hearing, returned their money £267 and said it was against their morals to complete the job.

Now this may be a good thing to do on the day that the Christian Institute think they have started the fight back against LGBT+ equality but I think it should be the last time we do this to the homophobes and anti-LGBT+ individuals who come to us for service. Here is why.

Most normal people are well aware of how many LGBT+ people are employed the in service sectors. They wait your tables, serve you in a variety of stores, look after you in hospitals and hotels etc. The same applies in Belfast as it does in Manchester. Those of us who work in the service sector are not deaf, we hear conversations our customers have while they wait for our service, or even while we are serving them. Some of those comments are homophobic, transphobic or otherwise anti-LGBT+.

What I am suggesting is this, we say:

"I am L,G,B, T or whatever, so I disagree with your point of view. However, I am here to give you the best and most fabulous service you have ever experienced. If you are not comfortable with me an L,G,B,T or whatever person serving you, you can find another place that doesn't have LGBT+ people employed because all my colleagues here have my back as will those in other establishments who employ people on their ability to provide customer service and not on their sexuality or gender identity.

"Now, how can I be of service?"

It was just like with drafting equal marriage policy and legislation itself. Those of us who had any part in that have always respected all faith groups rights to come to their own view, some are in favour, some vehemently opposed and others are discussing where they should stand and opinions will invariably change with time. It is sad that in some faith groups the same respect for the views of others has not been reciprocated. This is another case of that.

However, to quote Michelle Obama "When they go low, we go high." That is the guiding principle on why I as someone in the service industry think this will have more impact.

Go on then folks, and continue to be fabulous.