Northern Ireland gay groups to be honoured at Stormont reception
A Sinn Fein member of the Northern Ireland Assembly is to host a reception for gay rights groups at Parliament Buildings.
The Coalition on Sexual Orientation and the Rainbow Project will be the guests of honour at the event.
Martina Anderson, an MLA for Foyle, told PinkNews.co.uk that the invitations to the reception will be co-signed by Progessive Unionist Party MLA Dawn Purvis, in a sign of cross-community support for gay rights.
A reception 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 the wife of the First Minister, said on Radio Ulster last week that homosexuality is disgusting, loathsome, nauseating, wicked and vile and claimed gay people can be “cured.”
“I wanted to ensure that wider society knew that the nonsense that came out of Iris is not reflective of the vast majority of politicians or citizens,” Ms Anderson told PinkNews.co.uk.
“Her Cruella de Vil outburst caused wide offence and hurt to those of us that want to create an equal society.
“As (Sinn Fein) spokesperson on equality and human rights I felt offended and enraged.
“Coming out of 40 years of conflict, we will not tolerate targeting of any group.”
Sinn Fein are in coalition government with Mrs Robinson’s Democratic Unionist Party.
Ms Anderson said that all 108 MLAs would be invited to the reception and Mrs Robinson and her DUP colleagues should attend.
“They have a lot to learn and people learn by listening and reflecting.
“I am hoping they will attend the event and even hope that Iris will.”
A spokesman for the First Minister failed to respond to a specific query from PinkNews.co.uk earlier this week about whether Mr Robinson will meet with gay groups.
“I refer you to the First Minister’s statement in the Assembly on Monday past,” the spokesman wrote in an email.
Speaking at Assembly Question Time, Mr Robinson said: “There is a legal obligation to ensure that no-one in our society is discriminated against.
“I have to say that even if there was no legal obligation I would be at the forefront defending anyone who was being discriminated against.
“And I know my colleague the member for Strangford (Mrs Robinson) would be alongside me in that.”
The Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister is tasked with ensuring equality for gay people in Northern Ireland.
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Mrs Robinson has refused to apologise for her comments.
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.
“I think at the moment there is a witch hunt to kerb or actually stop or prevent Christians speaking out and I make no apology for what I said because it’s the word of God.”
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.”