Northern Ireland’s only health project for gay and bisexual men has said it is determined to use an event in Parliament Buildings later this month to argue that the province’s “good relations strategy” should include homophobia.
The Coalition on Sexual Orientation and the Rainbow Project will be the guests of honour at the Stormont reception.
Rainbow Project’s director Mirjam Bader told PinkNews.co.uk:
“This is an opportunity to show that LGBT people have every right to be there and have their issues heard. Homophobia is of course an issue but the invisibility of gay people needs to be tackled too.”
Sinn Fein MLA Martina Anderson and Progressive Unionist Party MLA Dawn Purvis are to jointly host the reception at Stormont.
The event was planned for September, but Ms Anderson said she decided to bring it forward to June 24th in the light of the controversy surrounding her Assembly colleague Iris Robinson.
Mrs Robinson, who is also a DUP MP and MLA and the wife of the First Minister, said on Radio Ulster earlier this month that homosexuality is disgusting, loathsome, nauseating, wicked and vile and claimed gay people can be “cured.”
All 108 MLAs are invited to the reception.
Rainbow Project lobbies for equality of opportunity and strategic approaches to improving understanding and relations between people of different sexual orientations.
“We hold that there is a great danger that some minorities will be left behind if a good relations strategy for Northern Ireland continues to focus on sectarianism and racism only,” said Ms Bader.
“The gay community here is well aware that some politicians would prefer that they remain silent; however we will continue to seek to achieve what was laid down in Section 75 of the NI Act, namely the duty to promote of equality of opportunity as well as to promote good relations between people in NI.”
Ms Bader said the reception would provide another opportunity to put forward the case for the inclusion of all “section 75 categories” in the Cohesion, Sharing and Integration (Good Relations) Strategy for Northern Ireland including sexual orientation, age and disability.
“It is the view of The Rainbow Project that there can be no hierarchy of equality and a good relations strategy that does not include actions to address for example good relations between people of different sexual orientation, people of different ages or disabled and able-bodied people simply cannot achieve the Cohesion, Sharing and Integration set out in its title.”
Mrs Robinson has refused to apologise for her comments. Police are investigating whether she should face charges.
Sinn Fein has called on her to stand down as chair of the Assembly health committee.
“I am defending the word of God,” she told the BBC.
Mrs Robinson repeated that she condemns the “sin” of homosexuality but not the sinner.
“Just as a murderer can be redeemed by the blood of Christ so can a homosexual.”
Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (the Act) places the following
statutory requirements on each public authority:
(1) A public authority shall in carrying out its functions relating to Northern
Ireland have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity
a)between persons of different religious belief, political opinion,
racial group, age, marital status or sexual orientation;
b) between men and women generally;
c) between persons with a disability and persons without; and
d) between persons with dependants and persons without.
(2) Without prejudice to its obligations under subsection (1), a public
authority shall in carrying out its functions relating to Northern Ireland
have regard to the desirability of promoting good relations between
persons of different religious belief, political opinion or racial group.