Clarke: Hain right to keep gay rights away from local politicians…

WHILE Peter Hain has been getting a hard time for acting like a dictator in Northern Ireland, Liam Clarke thinks the Secretary of State is right to push through regulations prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, no matter what tomorrow’s quasi-Assembly debate on the matter leads to, as it would result in a political quagmire if a devolved administration got its hands on the legislation. Clarke writes: “It is precisely to prevent a return to that sort of timewarp [Sabbatarian] Ulster, and to guard against paralysis in any new executive, that Hain should press ahead with the reforms and not listen to the DUP’s arguments for delay.”

  • slug

    This is reminiscent of the argument that minority rights are better protected in large states than small.

  • Stinks of double standards reallyIgnoring this single issue under debate here for a second: since this isn’t really an issue of national importance, why does it need to be taken at a “national” level? (Algthough it’s not really I suppose given that Hain doesn’t have national responsibility, but you get what I mean)

    The answer is that, rightly or wrongly, Hain feels the locals can’t be trusted to make up their own mind on it.

    Surely it sets a difficult precedent if Hain’s basically saying that the people and/or representatives of Northern Ireland should be given responsibility to take decisions affecting their own lives – but only when they agree with Peter Hain.

  • I agree with you Beano that the government is pushing this through here in Northern Ireland because they believe “the locals can’t be trusted to make up their own mind on it”. ie., the locals can’t be trusted to get the right result. I also agree that to do this shows great double standards.

    The only thing I don’t agree with you on is when you say this is not an issue of national importance. It will affect everyone and all areas of our lives. One big affect will be on children’s sex education in schools. If a teacher advises the class that the heterosexual lifestyle is in any way preferable to homosexual pursuits, will they be branded a homophobic bigot and get a police warning / fine / criminal record ? Will it be possible to express any negative views in public at all about homosexuality without being branded the same or accused of hate crime ? Will it be possible to challenge homosexual adoption of children in public without getting a call from the police warning you about your “homophobic” problem? This happened to English author Lynette Burrows last year when she expressed negative views about homosexual adoption on BBC Radio Five Live. She got a “little call” from the police “informing” her that a “homophobic” incident had been reported to them and they were “investigating” it.

    These new laws are being bulldozed through at Christmas when everyone is just getting into the party season ie., when there is least resistance. It is not only the DUP who should be concerned about this legislation, it is everyone who values free speech and civil liberties. Trying to protect gay people in society is a very honourable thing to do and one I fully support. However, in so doing, we should not criminalise other members of society or force a type of education on children that the vast majority of parents would be most unlikely to accept – that is if anyone had bothered to ask them.

  • rights_denied_rights_won

    Ok so non gay Ulster has a right to deny Equality to Ulster’s gay population?

    -Sorry we been here before with the DUP. Last time the British agreed with the DUP and done away with the proposed reform in 1979. Fast forward to 1982 the law is reformed at Westminster follow the ruling at the European Court of Human Rights that the law on gay rights should be same for everyone who lives in the UK.

    So it not Hain who is doing the biding of the gay community he is indicating that they are not going to defend inequality and risk have another case taken at Strasbourg.

  • jerryp

    The DUP and the Catholic bishops might have more in common than they think : they both seem determined to have a presence in the bedrooms of consenting adults !

  • Tiny

    it might be in the DUP’s interests for this to be pushed through, that way they can avoid an issue that will bring memories of chained swings to the voters minds

  • Dr Snuggles

    Myview said:
    “One big affect [sic] will be on children’s sex education in schools. If a teacher advises the class that the heterosexual lifestyle is in any way preferable to homosexual pursuits, will they be branded a homophobic unpleasant and get a police warning / fine / criminal record?”

    State school teachers will be expected to stick to the curriculum, just like Christian science teachers who have to teach arguably non-Biblical principles such as the age of the Earth or evolution.

    The regulations state that discrimination does not occur when a provision, criterion or practice is a “proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim”. In other words, there is no question that teachers will have to spend 50% of their time in sex education classes on homosexuality, because that would not be proportionate.

    Legitimate expression of religious belief is fine, but, for example, in state schools, should a Christian teacher be allowed to tell non-Christian pupils that they are going to go to hell because they have not accepted Jesus as their personal saviour? Should a Christian teacher be allowed to teach non-Christian pupils that Muslims or Jews are a Godless lot who are responsible for much of the evil in the world?

    If the answer is no, then why on Earth should a Christian teacher be allowed to preach to pupils that homosexuality is an abominable sin? What’s more, why should a PE teacher, Christian or not, be able to call kids “fairies” or “poofs”, which used to happen routinely when I was at school.

    The real effect of the regulations will be to stop that sort of behaviour, not to promote gay sex to children. If that happened, a complaint could be made under these very regulations to the effect that straight children were being discriminated against.

    As Equality Minister Meg Munn put it:
    “There are a number of misconceptions about what these Regulations will cover and what is being considered. For example, no-one is proposing that schools will have to promote homosexuality or that a priest will have to bless same sex couples. But at the same time, the vast majority of the British public would surely agree that is wrong for a gay teenager to be refused emergency accommodation after being thrown out of their family home on the grounds that they had chosen to tell their parents about their sexuality or for lesbian and bisexual people to be denied access to essential healthcare. It is right that there should be a public debate on these complex and difficult issues, but that debate should be conducted in a calm and measured way, rather than through inaccurate and wild speculation.”

    I apologise for repeating myself to anyone has been following the separate thread on this subject, but I didn’t want to let people from that thread escape to this one to repeat fallacies unopposed.

  • Dr Snuggles

    Myview said:
    “English author Lynette Burrows last year when she expressed negative views about homosexual adoption on BBC Radio Five Live. She got a “little call” from the police “informing” her that a “homophobic” incident had been reported to them and they were “investigating” it.”

    Myview knows perfectly well that Mrs Burrows went beyond “negative views”. She said: “Nobody trusts men with girls but they will give a little boy to two homosexuals, which is madness.”

    A complaint was made, and I agree that while Mrs Burrowes views were unpleasant, they were not illegal. The police are required to inform someone when such a complaint is made against them. Mrs Burrowes was not warned or cautioned and at no time was it even considered that she be charged with a crime. She was given the courtesy of a phone call, during which she was expressly told that she would not be charged with any crime.

    Never mind the fact that if she had said those words about named individuals, she would certainly have libelled them.

  • pondersomething

    I’m all in favour of restoring devolution asap – local representatives dealing with local issues etc.

    But this isn’t a local issue – securing the basic civil rights of lesbian and gay citizens is not something that should be left to local politicians. Our passports say “United Kingdom” not Northern Ireland.

    This is all about the DUP seeking an entrenched veto in the Assembly for their loony-tunes social agenda, and to keep the rest of us living in a homophobic backwater.

  • aquifer

    Hain has been upstaging our excuses for politicians for some time now, and it works well. Big ideas going over the heads of small men, spinning the wooden heads on their brass necks.

    And he does it part-time. Delicious.

  • Gonzo

    If the DUP got their way, gospel-singing Paul Berry could be turned away by the Ramada doorman on the grounds of him conducting ‘un-Christian’ activity (allegedly) on his previous visit.

  • Dr Snuggles,

    You say that British author Lynette Burrows “was given the courtesy of a phone call, during which she was expressly told that she would not be charged with any crime”. You make it sound so nice that I’m almost jealous I didn’t get a lovely courtesy call as well. Funny enough, Lynette Burrows remembers the incident a little differently. She said after the incident: “I think the issue of gay adoption is something which ought to be spoken about. The idea of telling you you can’t talk about it is so repressive, it’s like the KGB calling you up.”

    She also said “I was astounded” and also “I told her this was a free country and we are allowed to express opinions on matters of public interest. She told me it was not a crime but that she had to record these incidents. They were leaning on me, letting me know that the police had an interest in my views. I think it is sinister and completely unacceptable.” You seem to think it was totally acceptable.

    Jonathan Freedland, wrote an article in The Guardian on Wednesday January 18, 2006 entitled “How police gay rights zealotry is threatening our freedom of speech”. The article can be found at http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1688760,00.html

    He mentions the Lynette Burrows incident as well as the ridiculous case of an Oxford student being arrested for asking a police officer if his horse was gay.

    The call to Lynette Burrows was an attempt to intimidate her into silence on this issue. If she expressed the same view on radio again, would she have got another “courtesy” call from the police? If she expressed it twenty times, or a hundred times, would she have got twenty or a hundred “courtesy” calls? It is quite obvious that the purpose of this call was to warn her off – the implication being that if she expressed similar views again, she would be getting another call – the further implication being that the police might be slightly less courteous the next time because she had been warned already and was now daring to express these views again. The clear message was – Don’t let it happen again.

    Such events may well be sinister signs of things to come and it should be borne in mind that the police did not have the backing of these new regulations at that time. Now, armed with these new legal powers, the police “courtesy” callers will have greatly increased powers to intimidate writers and critics into silence. What we are witnessing are very clear attempts to stifle free speech and shut down open debate. When a writer can be intimidated in this way, what chance does the ordinary person have?

    You reassure us all that there will be no problem with sex education for teachers and schools. But what if several pupils report “homophobic incidents” especially against a teacher who, for example, has given them a detention and they want to get their own back. Will these teachers be getting little calls from the PSNI, telling them that while they haven’t committed a crime or anything like that, nevertheless they wanted to warn them that a homophobic incident had been reported against them?

    People would be afraid to open their mouths and at the end of the day, it would only lead to extra resentment of gay people and trivialise incidents where real discrimination had occurred against this community.

    Laws which bring genuine justice and fairness are to be applauded, but laws which help to reduce a civilian’s right to express an opinion are at the other end of the spectrum. As I said before, its not the way the law is written, its how it is applied. As we can see by reading the Guardian article above, in many cases the law is applied particularly badly. This leads to ordinary citizens being monitored in their everyday speech. Such laws don’t bring freedom, they only bring oppression.

  • Brian Boru

    Probably right given the disturbing objections to laws on gay rights to service regarding hotels and B+B’s I heard on “Let’s Talk” recently. The Six Counties need to arrive in the 21st century first.

  • BeardyBoy

    We really need to dump Engalnd and her morality, Britannia is a slut and her minions are inflicting her morality on us – if the DUPes were really concerned about living in a state based on the law of God they would dump the Union, they know what the Holy Bible says about states which abandon God.

  • Dr Snuggles

    Myview

    There was no attempt to shut down Burrows’s right to free speech, which I’ve already stated is a qualified right. I put my hands up and admit that I don’t care about Lynette Burrows, who is a self-styled “family vaues camaigner” and a blowhard. She put herself out there and expressed some deeply unpleasant views insinuating that a little boy placed with two gay men was in danger. “Madness”, she called it.

    After the affair, the BBC had to issue this disclaimer, after a flood of calls from angry listeners :

    “In the context of a live radio programme it sometimes happens that challenging and unpleasant opinions are expressed. The BBC as a whole does not endorse any of the views of outside contributors to the phone-in debate.”

    Then someone made a complaint against Mrs Burrows. That complaint was investigated, decided upon and both parties notified. That’s all there is to it.

    Meanwhile, she made hay while the sun shone, exercising her freedom of speech as never before to any right-wing newpaper that would listen and misreport the incident, always omitting her actual orignal words.

  • Dr Snuggles

    Sanity prevails. The DUP’s motion has been “negatived”. Wee Jeffrey must be rippin’

  • I Wonder

    Why is it that those vociferous about freedom of speech are those who cite this freedom as sanctifying their obnoxious and unwanted views on something which takes place behind the closed curtains of someone else’s private dwelling?

    Personally, I can live without such unpleasant people and hopefully will outlive most of them.

  • Insanity prevails – for the moment!
    Watch this space – justice eventually prevails.
    We Snuggles will be the one rippin’ soon enough!