‘Free Christians from equality legislation’
Northern Ireland politician Paul Givan is calling for amendments to equality legislation after a Christian bakery, Ashers, was told to pay compensation or face court following its refusal to bake a cake with a pro-gay slogan.
Givan is a member of the deeply-homophobic Democratic Unionist Party. A while back he said he was said he was “appalled” by a question posed in an email by Dr Graham Ellison, a Queen’s University academic.
Who knows how many gays and lesbian young people in Northern Ireland have committed suicide because of this bloody party?
Givan wants to add a “conscience clause” to current equality legislation, by bringing forward a private member’s bill at Stormont, which he hopes would prevent cases similar to that of the bakery to occur in the future.
The Justice Committee chair, who last year had to pay “substantial” libel damages to former Police Ombudsman Baroness Nuala O’Loan, said that the case had caused him to examine current legislation.
I think there needs to be absolute clarity on this. There needs to be an enhancement made of equality legislation and that’s what I intend to bring forward in a private member’s bill.
The Equality Commission are wrong in terms of their interpretation of the law. But, obviously, if it is a grey area it needs to be clarified and I am going to do that through the private member’s bill and I trust people will recognise it for what it is.
He is quoted in this report as saying:
This clause will enhance equality legislation. Equality is about ensuring that everybody in society is allowed to live out their lives.
We now are heading towards a community where it’s not just about live and let live – people are now saying, ‘you need to affirm my particular lifestyle and if that goes against your conscience, you have to do that’.
That’s not equality; that’s intolerance.
He has the backing of First Minister Peter Robinson, who told delegates at the DUP conference:
I have become increasingly alarmed at the uneven pitch upon which rights and equality issues are played out. More and more the balance is tipped against people of faith.
This has been recently demonstrated by the treatment meted out to the Ashers Baking Company.
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.
The publicly-funded Equality Commission has launched an unjustified attack on a small Christian family business. This is simply bullying.
I contend that the Equality Commission is seeking to use the Ashers case to add a further layer of restrictions on Christian behaviour and practice.
In an unprecedented move, Robinson also called for DUP members to come forward to contribute to the bakery’s legal costs.
Northern Ireland already lags far behind the rest of the UK on equality measures – banning same-sex marriage and refusing to lift the lifetime ban on gay men giving blood.
Ashers was founded in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, in 1992. The Christian directors oversee six shops in Northern Ireland and employ around 60 people.
The company was named after a verse from the Bible, which refers to ‘Bread from Asher’.
In July, it emerged they had received an order for a cake with the slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’ and a picture of the Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie.
The manager of the business, Daniel McArthur, said they had to contact the customer to decline the request because it went against their Christian beliefs about marriage.
He said they then received a letter from the Equality Commission accusing them of discrimination and saying they could end up in court.
Earlier this month, the owner was instructed by the Commission to pay compensation or face court action.
In a letter, the company was told that if it did not offer compensation within seven days it would face litigation.