August 6, 2012
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