LGBT Rights: Got Pride?

Stephen Donnan 

Image © Guillaume Paumier

Last weekend I had the pleasure of attending Northern Pride in Newcastle-Upon Tyne. I was shown around the town by a friend, the sun was blazing and the cider was ice cold, so we decided to take part in the parade. As we joined the throngs of revellers waving rainbow flags alongside drag queens and carnival creations I couldn’t help but notice that one thing was lacking from the parade route: protesters.

Yes that’s right, I couldn’t get my head round why this parade was going so smoothly, and why were there no pickets along the street? Beside city hall? Outside the churches we passed? I looked several times and couldn’t see them, concluding that I must have missed them. I asked my friend if there had been protesters ever before and she looked at me as though I was nuts. I guess coming from Belfast you tend to expect certain things that other places consider bizarre, such as Christians protesting a gay pride march.

Every year the Sandown Presbyterian Church sendsadelegationtoholdplacards reading slogans about Sodom and Gomorrah, telling us that we are all going to Hell, that we are an abomination. These people aren’t alone, for their views are shared by many, including our very own First Minister.

As part of the UK, Northern Ireland has a track record for being the worst country in the British Isles for LGBT rights, being the last nation in the Union to liftthebanonhomosexualityin 1982. Direct Rule brought us protection against workplace discrimination based on who we love, equal access to IVF treatment, the right to change legal gender, the ability to serve openly in the military, legal protection from hate crime, rights of access to goods and services and the first CivilPartnerships took place in Belfast in 2004. But this myriad of equality legislation stopped as soon as the Northern Ireland Assembly was re-established in 2007.

Our Health Minister, Mr. Edwin Poots MLA and member of the DUP, has recently refusedtolifttheban on gay and bisexual men from donating blood, despite his counterparts in Scotland, Wales and England replacing the ban with a 12 month deferral period. Due to the nature of legislation in place, same-sex couples in a Civil Partnership areforbiddentoadoptchildren and raise a family and future Health Minister Jim Wells MLA described those taking part in Belfast Pride as ‘repugnant’, and the issue of same-sex marriage has drawn a line in the sand for political parties in NI as Scotland, England and Wales all have plans to legislate in favour of such a measure.  Read more of this post

Why we should all support Equal Marriage

Mathew Hulbert 

© Starobserver.com

Let’s be honest, it’s not the easiest time to be a Liberal Democrat.

Part of a Coalition Government with our traditional enemies, implementing changes to health, welfare and education which, I very much hope, we would most certainly not be doing  if we were in Government by ourselves. We get arrows shot at us from all sides; the Left call us traitors to the cause and the Right think we’re the ones preventing them from being properly Conservative.

However, on a host of issues, this Government is taking great strides in making Britain better, fairer and greener. One of these is very close to my heart.

I ‘came out’ as being gay just over a year ago, having been in the proverbial closet for more than half of my life, around 15 years. It was daunting but my family and friends have been brilliant, realising that this is just who I am, how I was born; just like some people are attracted to the opposite sex, I’m attracted to people of my own gender. Nothing more complicated about it than that. All myself and other members of the LGBT community ask for is equality, genuine equality, nothing more, nothing less.

Great strides have, of course, already been taken. The abolishing of the vile Section 28 which made illegal the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools (in effect aiding homophobia by making it illegal for teachers to explain that some people fall in love with people of their own gender and that there’s nothing wrong with that.) Civil Partnerships, which enabled gay people to gain the same legal rights as married couples. And, for these and other achievements, the last Labour Government deserves great praise. But there is still much, much further to go.

The current ‘controversy,’ of course, is about gay marriage or – as I prefer to call it – marriage equality. For most people, this isn’t an issue; being gay is no longer (quite rightly) shocking or a cause of alarm. But, of course, very sadly, there are those for whom being gay is seen as anything but natural; you know the rhetoric, we’ve heard it again from some Catholic Bishops and others in recent weeks, “it’s an abomination,” “it’s morally wrong,” “It undermines families,” etc, etc. I hate having to listen to such vile and wrong words being spoken or to read them in our printed press, but – as disgusting as it is – it does serve one purpose. Such language makes those who utter or write it seem so extreme, that anyone with any kind of common sense will realise that they’re clearly wrong. Read more of this post

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