When cherishing equal citizenship falls short on equality

Patrick Corrigan wrote on Slugger yesterday asking “Equal marriage – how long will Northern Ireland’s gay couples have to wait?”. Today the DUP lodged a Petition of Concern against the motion which is to be debated in Stormont on Monday.

As Steven Agnew tweeted ” Legislation designed to protect minorities used to prevent the passing of a motion to enhance minority rights”. This on the same day that the DUP were happily celebrating the Ulster Covenant, a document which calls on the people of Ulster to defend their cherished position of equal citizenship within the United Kingdom, by any means necessary.Yet there are things that the LGBT communities in England, Scotland and Wales are able to do, give blood after a twelve month deferral period, adopt as a couple, and there are moves to wards marriage equality. But these are not cherished rights of UK citizenship it seems by the DUP delegation on the hill.

The wording of the motion seeks to extend civil rights and allows for those religious groups that don’t want it to be protected. In essence the motion encapsulates a lot of the spirit of the Ulster Covenant defending civil and religious freedom in a complex dance. It goes on to call on OFMDFM to come up with the legislation necessary. So is the DUP concern that the First Minster won’t be able to come up with adequate legislation on the issue to be debated? Of course that is not why they are petitioning.

The DUP have 68% of the Unionist designation in Stormont and that is easily enough to defeat any motion by a Petition of Concern they may wish to if they vote as a block. But that Covenant that they hold so dear, and which many LGBT people’s ancestors also signed, said that Home Rule would lead to a subversion of Ulster’s civil and religious freedom.

I doubt that the forebears of many in our province thought that 100 years on a subversion of a devolved legislative procedure made to protect  minorities would be exercised by Unionists to try such a blatant attempt to prevent progress for any minority. As a result looking to deny some Ulster citizens the same rights as fellow citizens elsewhere in that United Kingdom.

It is all very Animal Farm like.

All positions of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom are cherished, but some are more cherished and others we will use all means necessary to keep from happening here.

If anything a cross community vote on this should require 40% of all the straight MLAs who can get married and 40% of the invisible LGBT MLAs who can’t, but DUP seem to miss the point when they called for this petition of concern on a cross ‘traditional’ communities minority.

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  • Carsons Cat

    Which all carries about as much weight as the argument that NI students should be charged 9 grand a year in tuition fees because that’s what students in GB have to pay.

    Equality truly is damaged by the abuse of those who claim to support it.

  • Pete Baker

    The concerted focus on the DUP over this issue seems peculiarly myopic.

    Particularly when there are more significant sexual rights issues under dispute.

    But hey! That’s so-called ‘liberal’ lobby groups for you! C’mon Amnesty NI, where’s the campaign?

    As for the Green’s “Legislation designed to protect minorities used to prevent the passing of a motion to enhance minority rights”.

    Well, no.

    That legislation was designed to prevent one ‘tribe’ lording it over the other. It’s as valid for British Unionists to use that mechanism as is is Irish Nationalists.

    Actual minorities don’t come into it…

  • Pete I agree with you that abortion is another sexual rights issue that we seem to have second class citizenry here in Northern Ireland.

    As for the focus being myopic there is debate in Stormont on Monday, the DUP placed their petition of concern on a Friday before a news cycle will be dominated by the Ulster Covenant (I hope peaceably) so things have to said about their tactics now.

  • Pete Baker

    Well, Stephen, as I also pointed out

    That legislation was designed to prevent one ‘tribe’ lording it over the other. It’s as valid for British Unionists to use that mechanism as is is Irish Nationalists.

    Actual minorities don’t come into it…

  • The sooner we have people who don’t think so two dimensionally in Northern Ireland politics the better then.

  • Pete Baker

    Stephen

    One other thing.

    .Yet there are things that the LGBT communities in England, Scotland and Wales are able to do, give blood after a twelve month deferral period…

    Not quite. From Kilsally’s post in June this year.

    The reality is that the UK still retains a ban on sexually active Gay men.

    To give blood they must abstain from sex for 12 months. The reality is the Republic of Ireland and other European nations ban sexually active gay men from giving blood just like Northern Ireland. The reality is that the Give Blood website lists male gay sex, drug use, sex with prostitutes, sex in Africa as high risk behaviour.

    The NHS website states

    “All groups that are excluded or deferred from blood donation have been assessed as being at a statistically increased risk of carrying blood-borne viruses…….The criteria are based on complex assessments of risk and must by their nature be based on evidence and statistics that are recorded at a population level.”

    The irony here is that Sinn Fein and the SDLP wish to harmonise NI law with UK law rather than the Republics.

    Although I will note that the Irish Blood Transfusion Service excludes anyone who has spent one year or more in total/cumulatively in the UK* between 1980 and 1996, including living, working or on holidays from giving blood.

    * UK includes Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

  • Pete Baker

    “The sooner we have people who don’t think so two dimensionally in Northern Ireland politics the better then.”

    After you, Stephen…

  • UserAinm

    Pete Baker,

    I clicked the link above where you expressed your concern that the focus seemed to be on the DUP. Unless my computer is acting the wag it brought me to an article where Mary McAleese was giving off about the Catholic church and their attitude to homosexuality.

    So first off the article is commenting on the fact that they are becoming more and more isolated in their attitude.

    Further by linking this in your post are you trying to equate the Catholic church with the DUP? I mean you don’t need me to point out the difference do you?

    I like to imagine 25 years from now when people can marry whomever they please, when my then grandchildren ask me ‘Granda, when gay people were fighting to try and marry each other same as everyone else, what side were you on?’ I know which answer I’d prefer to give.

  • Henry94

    “The irony here is that Sinn Fein and the SDLP wish to harmonise NI law with UK law rather than the Republics”

    It’s not as if they want to leave the law in the south they way it is. Sinn Fein want marriage equality in both jurisdictions. Fine Gael have put the issue to the Constitunial Convention which is an unnecessary delay as there is no political party in the Dail that now opposes equality.

  • lamhdearg2

    stephen, Vote alliance, and when “most” people agree with you, then your new goverment will change the laws to suit your cause.

  • Reader

    The DUP seem to have a lot of fundamentalist types in the party structure, so they might obstruct progress even if the bulk of their voters were more easygoing. But on the other hand I wonder if the DUP activity on this issue is just taking the flak and letting other parties off the hook.
    Are there any polls that connect issues like marriage equality and abortion rights with voting intentions? That would be interesting.

  • Rory Carr

    “I like to imagine 25 years from now when people can marry whomever they please…

    But what’s the use of that ? In 25 years time Selma Hayek may not be as pleasing to me as she is today. Never mind, I suppose I can then marry whichever current beauty of that time pleases me. Handy that.

  • UserAinm

    Look on the brightside Rory in 25 years her standards may have dropped sufficiently to give you a chance, every cloud.,.

  • DC

    Perhaps if Stephen Agnew and others in Alliance actually cottoned on to the necessity to designate in order to have some sort of vote then they might – by working together – be able to subvert the system and bring it to a halt. They could then attempt to gain some control over these types of debates.

    Opting out of designations is not going to do that because you lose the ability to vote in the assembly.

    I see no reason why Stephen Agnew and those ‘Others’ could not designate as Unionist for no other reason than to get under the system and vote the other way to try and do down the voting power of that particular bloc. I do think if he articulated the reasons for this to his electorate they may well understand.

    Same goes for Alliance and others.

    Basically, strip away the identities associated with designations and all you really have is a unique way of voting and a numbers system, it would be up to Stephen Agnew and co to repackage this as some sort of new progressive political identity in what they would be doing. They would be doing down the system whenever it is used to work against party interests if you like.

    The traditional argument against making a designation is that people would see them as being actual Unionists or Nationalists; but, once the media got hold of how they voted during petitions they would be seen as anything but, and from that a new identity could be created, leading to a new understanding and acceptance of what they are doing when designating this way.

  • DC

    In my opinion, Alliance doesn’t want to lead on this because there is more agency in pretending not being Unionist because there is a sizable portion of unionist voters propping them up, and it could be very bad to mess around with conservative Unionist values by entering the Unionist voting bloc in the assembly and then basically voting the other way as those mainstream political Unionists.

    It would be counterproductive for that party.

  • SK

    “The concerted focus on the DUP over this issue seems peculiarly myopic.”

    __________

    At least keep your whataboutery relevant, Pete. The DUP is running the province, the Catholic Church is not.

  • qwerty12345

    How depressing. Is it 1912 around here?

  • Granni Trixie

    DC

    In designating,Alliance MLAs have to take account of the diverse and complex nature of the party.
    Some members identify as
    ‘unionists’ (including Catholics), some as Nationalists (including Protestants) and some as a kind of ” northern Irish” – perhaps what Rory Mcilroy was trying to articulate and certainly how I see myself even though in form filling the best I can come up with is “British- Irish”

    The complexity I try to explain above is why after APNI changed designation strategically to save the day, Alliance Council, whilst accepting and agreeing to the reasons for doing so formulated a policy so that this would not happen a second time.

    This complex identity is something which outsiders (perhaps yourself?) fail to appreciate in labelling Alliance easily as ‘unionist’
    Whilst such judgements/perceptions are understandable given its
    acceptance of the status quo,
    there is a kind of acceptance within that this might become an issue to be revisited in future. So watch this space.

    You can see why I say you are completely wrong to write about “Alliance pretending not to be unionist”.

  • Granni Trixie

    Should also have added that most people in Alliance are unhappy at having to sign up under the label “other” but pragmatically chose their battles.

  • Jack2

    “Petition of concern” – I love it.
    Shakespeare “The Lady doth protest too much”.

    USA is always 10-15 yrs ahead of us, for fundamentalist gay hating hypocrisy scandal feel free please to look up Ted Haggard.

    Also note Iris Robinson’s rants about sex & sexuality while the first minister was being cuckolded by a teenage boy.

  • The Watchman

    I have no problem accepting the values of the Ulster Covenant and still holding to the current definition of marriage.

    Why anyone thinks they can twist the Covenant to advance the gay rights agenda is beyond me.

    Still, if Slugger’s many progressives want to get their knickers in a twist about it so be it.

  • Well at least you call us progressives watchman, that seem to suggest action in a certain direction.