DUP want to give people ‘freedom to discriminate’ against gay couples
Peers from the Democratic Unionist Party are seeking to introduce protections for people who want to discriminate against gay couples, if equal marriage is extended to Northern Ireland.
The UK Parliament is currently discussing proposals that would extend equal marriage and abortion rights to Northern Ireland, in the absence of a devolved government in the region.
An amendment seeking to permit same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland passed through the House of Commons on July 9 by a vote of 383-73, but the measure will also have to proceed through the House of Lords.
DUP amendment would create loophole in discrimination laws
Three DUP peers, Lord Morrow, Lord Browne of Belmont, and Lord McCrea of Magherafelt and Cookstown, on Monday (July 15) tabled their own amendment that would introduce ‘freedom to discriminate’ protections relating to the marriage law.
The proposal would block anti-discrimination laws from being used against people who refuse to “consent to a same-sex marriage being conducted [or] be present at, carry out, or otherwise participate in, a same-sex marriage.”
As written, the plan would grant an effective license to discriminate to any business owner who caters for weddings.
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A second amendment from DUP peers Baroness O’Loan and Lord Hay of Ballyore seeks to delay the implementation of same-sex unions and abortion reforms, requiring the government to first “hold a public consultation on the proposals” and “consult individually with members of the Northern Ireland Assembly.”
Two Conservative peers, Lords Cormack and Lord Trimble, have also tabled an amendment that would add an additional six-month delay to the deadline for same-sex marriage to be brought in, pushing back the existing October deadline to April 2020.
Democratic Unionist Party under fire over ‘wrecking amendments’
Speaking to Buzzfeed, Labour’s Stella Creasy branded the DUP’s interventions “wrecking amendments.”
She said: “Any delay in this legislation, any attempts to derail it or deny it must be called out and resisted and called out for what they are – an attempt by the DUP to hold us all to ransom.”
DUP politicians previously attempted to introduce a ‘conscience clause’ to permit discrimination against LGBT+ people in 2014, after a Northern Ireland bakery that refused to serve a cake with a pro-gay message became the centre of a long-running legal dispute.
Then-DUP leader Peter Robinson had said: “I believe in freedom of conscience. There will often be competing rights and freedoms but, nobody should be compelled or coerced into supporting, sanctioning or promoting views or opinions which conflict with their strongly held religious convictions.”