Defending Equality – Promoting Compassion

Conor Houston is a lawyer, influencer, strategist and active citizen. Drawing on his personal experience, he calls upon all in our society to act compassionately in the debate on civil marriage equality.

Conor HoustonI am 32 years of age. I have spent my life revolting against labels, but on this occasion, I will allow myself to be so.

I am gay.

Was I born gay? Yes. I can’t prove it. But I can’t prove I was born ‘straight’ either. As I grew up there was always something within myself that said “I’m different.” But I understood from a young age that this was not a difference that should be celebrated. It was my secret and one I prayed, and begged would go away. As a teenager I convinced myself I would “grow out of it”.

I was brought up in a loving, beautiful family. I still am. I am a son, brother, uncle, nephew, cousin & friend. Our family is founded in the love of my parents – a marriage of almost 35 years. My brother and sister are my best friends. My nephew at 7 weeks old is my new world.

My family are an essential part of me – intrinsic to my very self.

I was 17 when I first “came out” to myself. I looked in the mirror and trembling with fear I finally admitted “I’m gay”. I can still see the terrified boy looking at me when I see my reflection. He was so unsure, so terrified, so filled with self hatred.

I told my close friends I was gay. They all reacted with nothing but compassion and understanding. My best friend told me that in order to love myself and to free myself from the fear consuming me, I should tell my parents. I could think of nothing worse.

How could I disappoint them? How could I let them down? What would they say? Would they throw me out? Would they ever speak to me again? Would they hate me? Should I just kill myself and save everyone from the horror of my evil way?

The darkness was such that these were perfectly rational questions. It is hard to remember how all consuming the issue was to me and how desperately alone I felt.

But with the encouragement and support of my friends, one random evening after school – the 17th January 2001 to be exact, I sat my parents down, I trembled, I cried and I told them “mum, dad… I’m gay.”

They did what my parents had always done – they reacted with utter compassion and love. They hugged me, they supported me, they protected me and to this day have ensured I am a valued and loved part of our incredible family.

Once I told them, I never looked back. That isn’t to say, the journey was over. In fact, it had just begun.

Did my society hate me? Many times it felt that it did. Never underestimate the power of words when people are vulnerable. When I sought compassion and understanding, I was met with words such as “sinful”, “evil”, “sick”, “repulsive”… These are not just words, they are designed to have an effect. And at times this caused so much anger towards those who preached, spoke, tolerated those words.

I have been extremely fortunate. I gained an education. I travelled and I became professionally qualified as a lawyer. As a lawyer I represented thousands of people across this island. This included many people who had views utterly opposed to mine or who had committed offences which offended my very conscience. It was not my duty to judge. I did my duty as a lawyer – I defended people’s right to a fair hearing, no matter how unpalatable their cause or defence may have seemed. I ensured they had a voice. I put aside my own feelings, prejudices and views to ensure justice and the rule of law were upheld without fear or favour.

My journey has got easier. I have witnessed huge social and cultural change. There is no longer discussion of any merit as to whether homosexuality should be criminalised or whether gay pride marches should be banned. We’ve come a long way. All too often, we can think things don’t change, but when I compare the society of my teenage years to today it is almost unrecognisable in so many ways. However, I am concerned that our society still allows young people to ask the dark questions I asked myself. We’ve still some way to go before we arrive on ‘the right side of history.’

Just as our society has evolved, so did my understanding and acceptance of my sexuality. I accept that when I first came out, civil marriage equality wasn’t on any agenda. I have been on a journey of acceptance and understand that this society is too.

In May this year, I witnessed an incredible moment in this history of this island, when the Republic of Ireland voted in the referendum on civil marriage equality. It was a beacon of pioneering and positive hope to the world. It was a defining moment in the history of Ireland – a social revolution. Families voted together, people travelled home to vote, personal stories were courageously told. Most importantly, the debate was dignified & compassionate.

The word compassion is key.

I understand and have felt myself the hurt, isolation and the pain caused to many in the LGBTQ community in Northern Ireland. But when I see the vitriolic language by those in favour of civil marriage equality directed at those who oppose it, I wonder where their compassion, liberalism, humanity and love are?

And for those who oppose civil marriage equality – which is not religious marriage equality – on the basis of “religious belief” – I challenge where their fundamental beliefs of compassion, understanding and love are?

This is not about “us” and “them” and anyone who enters into this debate is only causing hurt to themselves and to each other.

This is about us ‘all’ – the society in which we all live and exist. The society in which we are not a label, but a beautiful and valued member of the community. Let us treat each other with the dignity and compassion we each deserve.

We can all surely agree we want to live in a place at peace with itself, a place where love blossoms?

So if that be the vision, how do we achieve it?

I am quite certain that shouting, insulting, accusing, mistrusting, judging, stereotyping and hating by anyone will not assist.

Compassion must be the new starting point.

I fundamentally disagree with those who do not accept that civil marriage equality is a right for all. But I fundamentally disagree that anyone should be forced to accept a position to which their conscience will not permit.

This is why I am a democrat. It’s why I became a lawyer and defended the rule of law.

Let me be clear, civil marriage is a right that our society recognises to celebrate the legal union of love and commitment between two consenting adults. The state must ensure that a right is bestowed on each and every citizen. The right of civil marriage is not currently offered to all citizens. This offends the principle of equality which is ensuring all our citizens are treated equally before law. Equality is the cornerstone upon which human rights and the rule of law flourish. Democracy values everyone even when the majority does not.

This is the backdrop against which the current Bill presented to the NI Assembly to legalise civil marriage equality must be viewed. I have a concern that the real issues and compassion on all sides may be lacking and this does not lead to proper, informed discussion of a matter that means a great deal to many people.

However, the Bill is now before the Assembly. A petition of concern is to be tabled and this effectively determines its fate. I would contend that the purpose and spirit of the petition of concern was to ensure that equality was upheld, not to deny protection and equality of law to a minority.

This was also at the very heart of our Good Friday & St Andrew’s Agreements – to share power for the greater good, to enshrine equality and to protect the minority from the will of the majority. The very institutions of our state are been used to deny equality to our LGBTQ community.

This issue does in a very real way impact on our LGBTQ community. I’ve never liked the boxing of any group as it can enforce notions of “different” and “other”. The “LGBTQ” are not a separate community. We teach your children, we treat you when you’re sick, we defend you in court, we care for your parents, we serve our community, we live in your street, in your families, in your homes and in the hearts of those who love us.

In fact, civil marriage equality is not about the LGBTQ community.

It is about us all.

It is about the kind of society we want to live in. It is about the future we want to give to our children. And it is not about waiting or saying it will “eventually happen”.

Our future is here. It is our present. Our children are here and they want to be treasured. We need a place right now which says to all our children “this society loves you no matter who you are”. We need to say to our children that it’s ok to love, to hope and to dream. We must ensure that each child is afforded every opportunity to realise their potential.

There’s nothing wrong with our gay children. They don’t deserve to ask the questions I asked of myself and to endure self-hatred, pain and shame.

You see, this isn’t just about civil marriage, this is about validation and love.

So let us act courageously and compassionately and say to all our children that our society will celebrate and love you for all that you are.

This is why civil marriage equality matters.

So let us not think of ourselves. Let us show compassion. But most of all, let us proudly say, we let love win.

  • Turgon

    “But most of all, let us proudly say, we let love win.”

    And the love which siblings who lived and worked together for decades is lesser than romantic love be that homosexual or heterosexual?

    Or indeed the love a muslim lady may have for the man she wants to marry but cannot as he is already married. Even if all three persons consent that love is not recognised by the state.

    If you want to campaign for extra rights for homosexual couples the same as the rights for heterosexual couples that is fine but it is not true equality.

    True equality would be Union Civil between any person and any other person or persons able to give free consent. You may be defending something (homosexual marriage) but you are not defending equality nor promoting compassion for all.

  • Backbencher

    Oh dear, looks like Turgon has just demolished that argument in a few paragraphs.

  • Granni Trixie

    Conor: I appreciate you sharing your story. If one is not gay or doesn’t have gay relations one needs to hear stories like yours of what it is like to be gay in NI.

    I also think that in highlighting compassion you have put your finger on something beyond rights based arguments. For instance I have been in Hot and heavy debates with people who focus on the efficacy or limitations of changing the law. I on the other hand tended to focus on the lead by Mary McAleese who said something like ‘this change is about children and families’ in other words the mother in me responded – having empathy I have had no problem whatsoever in supporting this change. For the same reasons I will always see the campaign for a legal change for gay people to be about somethng much broader under the surface – a demand for a society which is accepting and where people don’t feel they have to leave the country because it’s too hard being gay here. Or different.

    Thanks again for your contribution.

  • Dominic Hendron

    “The Naked Civil Servant” and the “Killing of Georgie” (Rod Stewart) did more to humanize this issue for me than Pride which I see as exhibitionist and political. Unfortunately this is the context in which I see gay marriage. In listening to Catriona Ruane on the Nolan show it seems clear that the issue has become a bit of a political football notwithstanding the human stories and tragedies that lie behind it. Becoming a more compassionate society should not be dependent on a single issue and the gay marriage debate has greater ramifications for society and family life than people think. I would elevate traditional marriage and family life while not denigrating same sex relationships which are none of my business.

  • Robert Smith

    Tell you what Turgon, let’s have a referendum, like they’ve recently had in the ROI. And to keep you happy, let’s ask three questions:

    Should gay couples be allowed to marry?
    Should siblings be allowed to marry?
    Should polygamy be allowed?

    A recent poll indicates that around 68% would say yes to the first question. I’m not aware of any recent research on the other two, but let’s give it a go.

    And while we’re at it, why don’t we ask our local bible experts why they’re so curiously silent these days on ”living in sin”, children born out of wedlock and adultery? Might it be that societal attitudes have overtaken them on these issues?

  • Backbencher

    Robert, just because people might vote for gay marriage and reject the others does not in turn make gay marriage an equality issue, hence your comment, in the context of this debate, is rather pointless.
    With regard to your last paragraph, I suggest you change church. Try one that uses the scriptures as their foundation rather than the opinion of man.

  • I don’t think an 17-year-old boy trembling with fear – as described above (not to mention “self-hatred, pain and shame”) – cares about the finer points of wider equality theory and debate.

    I care more about the former than the latter, and I’ll repeat what I said on the other thread: I very rarely see much compassion involved in the marriage equality debate, despite it being so closely linked with faith.

    Thank you Conor. Hopefully it will transpire that validation and compassion will change things and make looking in the mirror easier for others here in the same position you were in at 17.

  • Turgon

    As noted here “The idea that the majority can legitimise the right of a minority is fundamentally flawed.”

    My point throughout has been if you are talking about equality it must be equality for all.

    Why do you feel that non biologically related sexual / romantic unions of two persons should be elevated above all others?

    Why are you unwilling to celebrate consensual freely entered into human loving relations in all their many and varied forms?

    If you believe in equality then it should be for all. Referenda on the subject of equality are as noted above deeply flawed.

    South Africa offers a pretty classic precedent on this issue.

    During the later days of apartheid the white minority government opened up a limited franchise to mixed race “coloureds” and Indians. A few of these groups took part but most denounced it as utterly inadequate and unacceptable. Those supportive of extra rights for homosexuals but not other groups look very similar to those who were willing to help legitimise the apartheid regime by accepting rights for themselves but rejecting the same rights for others.

    As to your comments about churches. My minister recently pointed out that Jesus stated in Matthew 5:28 “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” So rest assured many fundamentalist evangelical Christians are fully cognescent of the Biblical position.

  • William Carr

    so you suggest that no one should marry until all can marry, does this idea extend to heterosexual marriage or is the gay community the only group that this restriction applies to?

  • Robert Smith

    Interesting comment backbencher. I refer you to my earlier point regarding adultery, co-habiting and children born out of wedlock. Shouldn’t anyone using the ”scriptures as their foundation” not also be objecting loudly to these? Or is it only gay people that they should have a problem with?

  • William Carr

    Now which church would that be, every little church has it own opinion of what scripture says all different and all the truth (at least according to that church) so can i pick one that suits me, isnt that what they all do!

  • Turgon

    No I have suggested repeatedly that there are two logical options:

    The old fashioned one which heavily discriminates in favour of different sex non biologically related sexual / romantic unions. That worked for many centuries.

    Since that has been seen now as too restrictive the only other logical (and equal) option is to separate church and state completely.

    The only option the state should offer is “Union Civile” between any person and any other person (or persons) able freely to give consent. Marriage on the other hand should be for the faith groups to have as a sacrament for those and only those whom they wish to extend that to.

    This would provide equality, fairness and protection for all.

  • Backbencher

    Totally agree, all that you list are contrary to scripture. Are you suggesting that some churches approve of adultery, co-habiting and children born out of wedlock?

  • Robert Smith

    So you’re saying that democracy isn’t a good thing Turgon? That the electorate can’t be trusted to deliver the result you might be happy with?

    I don’t personally agree which is why I would advocate that the electorate decide on the various issues you have brought up.

    If the majority decide in favour of sibling marriage, I’ll be surprised, but I’ll respect their decision. You clearly wouldn’t.

  • Turgon

    Democracy is not merely elections or referenda. It is also providing rights and equality before the law. That is utterly elementary to any concept of democracy.

    Democracy without tolerance is the rule of the mob and leads to tyranny. A democracy in which a majority can by a referendum deprive a minority of rights (rights which are not hurting others) is not a democracy at all. In Northern Ireland of all places to have to explain that to someone is surprising.

  • Robert Smith

    No I’m suggesting that some churches and individuals place more emphasis on their own particular prejudices.

    I think we need to move beyond this rather sad scriptural excuse that some use for what is actually a pathetic and often lurid distaste for the sexuality of others.

  • William Carr

    I see, so you have no problem with gay couples having in law the same title and rights as straight couples, fair enough.
    How would it work outside your faith, say if my faith believes that your faith is the work of the devil may i then regard your relationship as a union civil or a marriage.
    Or if my faith believes that gay marriage is perfectly acceptable to God, would all churches accept that as a marriage or a union civil ?

  • Turgon

    That is entirely your business.

    As I stated that is why I believe in separation of church and state. The England and Wales option is a dreadful mess with homosexual marriage allowed but not in CoE churches (the state church) whilst other faith groups make their own decisions.

    In view of the changes in society I believe in freedom of religion and freedom of conscience for all. Hence why I have previously suggested the compromise of both homosexual marriage (ideally to my mind Union Civile) and a conscience clause.

    The petition of concern has been misused in both cases and a compromise in which it is used for neither could make Northern Ireland truly a progressive beacon to the world.

  • Robert Smith

    So just to clarify Turgon, if a majority of MLAs vote in favour of gay marriage (and the vote was very close last time), do you feel that the DUP are justified in using the petition of concern on this issue?

    I would indeed agree with you on the ”democracy without tolerance” issue being a bit special in NI, particularly given the DUP’s endless objections to the gay community in general. A democracy in which one party can deprive a minority of the right to marry via the mis-use of a petition of concern is not a democracy at all.

  • Turgon

    See below: I believe the DUP should not abuse the PoC regarding this issue just as I feel SF (and others) should not abuse the PoC over the conscience clause.

    The abuse of the Petitions of Concern over such social legislation is inappropriate. A compromise allowing both (homosexual marriage and a conscience clause) without misuse of PoCs is to my mind the best and fairest way out of the current impasse.

  • Robert Smith

    At least we agree on that one.

  • Turgon

    Yes. I must confess to a degree of bemusement on this issue as to why people at times seem wilfully to misunderstand my (and some other evangelicals) position.

    I think many fail to understand that there is a strong wish amongst many evangelicals to separate church and state completely. We recognise that society is no longer really even nominally Christian, certainly not Christian by our analysis of the term. We may not like that and our ancestors in the faith would almost certainly not have liked it but we are neither stupid nor naive. We can see reality.

    As such we want fairness and equality for our beliefs / practices but in return can only say that all others should also have fairness and equality for their beliefs / practices.

  • William Carr

    that all seems very complicated and would demean the institution of marriage reducing it the whim of the observer,
    surely simpler to put it to a referendum and see what the result says.
    to be honest your system is just to cumbersome, is there not already a conscience clause ensuring no church will be forced to conduct a ceremony if they did not want to?
    and i agree the CoE thing is just daft but that is a mess of the CoE own making.
    also surely history tells us equality is a ongoing and incremental process, men got the vote before women, women where once the property of their husbands (the list goes on) but these things changed one at a time, that is how the process works, why should gay marriage be different from every other advancement in the area of human rights?

  • Turgon

    Rights and equality should be for all. Rights and equality are not, in a democracy, at the whim of a majority. That is a misunderstanding of the concept of democracy and is a tyranny of the majority.

    It is interesting that prior to the acceptance of homosexual marriage by referendum in the RoI many suggested that a referendum on such a subject was inappropriate. By the token of majority vote the RoI had some very regressive and unfair legislation in the past which at the behest of the Roman Catholic church imposed the position of the majority on others.

    My system is not cumbersome. It is actually much the same as is already operated in many European countries where state marriage is at a registry office not in church. Those wishing for a church marriage go separately to a church.

    We have close friends (fellow evangelicals) who did exactly that. The bride was foreign and wanted a wedding in her home church. As such to make life easier they married in a registry office in NI but lived separately (as merely engaged in the sight of God) until they went to the bride’s homeland where they had a religious wedding. Only after that did they see themselves as married.

    The state should allow Civil Partnerships (Union Civile) to any validly consenting adult with any other validly consenting adult(s). Then the churches could do whatever they want free from the power to decide whose is a proper civil marriage but also free from sanction should they refuse to marry those whom they do not want to.

    What history tells us is that inequality is rife. History tells us that once homosexuality was a criminal offence; that once slavery was legal; that women used not to have the vote (ironically even at a time when we had a Queen). History in this case is not a good guide. Equality for all is the best guide. Homosexual marriage is not equality for all. Union Civile between any adult and any other adult(s) is equality for all.

    The idea of “demeaning the concept of marriage” is extremely subjective and has a somewhat Daily Mail prudishness about it. Non judgemental equality should be the watchword for the state.

  • Robin Keogh

    Your opposition to equal marraige is expected given your religous conviction and political allegience.
    But your argument is flawed on the basis that u assume the relationships you seem support are not included under the marraige equality banner. They are; or at least they would be should your friends decide to stand under it.

    As it stands the marraige equality argument is currently occupied by same sex individuals and their supporters. Should your friends wish to take the same banner in such a fight, they are quite entitled to do so.

    Nobody owns the marraige equality banner, therefore it cant exclude anyone.

  • Robert Smith

    I think the problem a lot of people (particularly younger people) have is the insistence of many Christian groups to attempt to impose their own beliefs / prejudices on the rest of us.

    In Ireland we’ve seen relatively recent hysterical battles over contraception, divorce and homosexuality, none of which make any sense to the majority of under 30s who see them as being non-issues.

    Many (most?) churches have an extremely unhealthy obession with gay issues, despite the fact that Christ himself never mentioned the subject and it’s hardly a major issue in terms of the bible as a whole.
    As an unbeliever from a strict church background, I regard the scriptural objections as being merely a fig leaf attempting to cover basic homophobia.

    As things stand, NI, which represents barely 2% of the population of the UK and Ireland is deprived of gay marriage largely due to the closed minds of the DUP. If this issue isn’t settled in Stormont, it will be settled in the courts at a considerable waste of time and money.

    So as you say, this society is nominally Christian at best. Fighting rearguard actions on what is effectively a foregone conclusion is both wasteful and unedifying. But then perhaps those are two of the things that this little place does best.

  • Robin Keogh

    Nobody has asked for extra rights for homosexuals, they have asked for the same legal rights to recognise their god given love for someone on the same basis as hetrosexuals.

  • Gaygael

    The core of Turgon and others argument against is that they would rather burn the edifice to the ground and build a range of new ones, than let the gays into it.

    Thanks Conor fr sharing your story.

  • Robin Keogh

    Thanks for sharing all that with us Conor. Keep faith, it will change at some time in the not too distant future. The problem is that six counties politics is under the control if the various churches, equality will come despite them.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    What ramifications ?

    When you are elevating traditional marriage would you seek to ban civil divorce ?

  • Catcher in the Rye

    A referendum will make no difference to Turgon. He thinks this is wrong and that the law should be against it. There is no point in arguing with him about it.

  • Dominic Hendron

    1) The input of a loving mummy and daddy, as shown above, is the best antidote to a child’s turmoil I know.
    2) Divorce is a tragedy for any family, if it was possible to ban it I would.

  • Robin Keogh

    “Democracy without tolerance is the rule of the mob and leads to tyranny”

    Stormont from 1921 to 1972 ?

  • Zeno

    I’m neutral on Gay Marriage. I haven’t ever thought about it, but one thing puzzles me.
    Why do you want or need your love rubber stamped by the State?

  • Robin Keogh

    Because it elevates that relationship to the status of marraige and gains the same legal protection of the state. It also dilutes the arguments of those opposed to LGBT lifestyles.

  • murdockp

    Well where do you start. Inheritance for starters leaving your home to your spouse is a tax headache of get people.

  • Robin Keogh

    A conscience clause simply institutionalises discrimination and our history should have taught us at least that that is never a good idea.

  • Zeno

    Define democracy Robin.

  • Robin Keogh

    you define Democracy Zeno

  • Zeno

    Does Civil Partnership not get around that problem?

  • Robin Keogh

    No because it claims that same sex partnership are not equal by virtue of the fact that there has to be a seperate institution for it.

  • Zeno

    So Civil Partnership gives you the same legal status? But you want the State to do what exactly?

  • Zeno

    You used the word Robin, the ball is in your court.

  • Zeno

    “No because it claims that same sex partnership are not equal by virtue of the fact that there has to be a seperate institution for it.”

    That doesn’t sound right Robin, Do you mean not the same rather that not equal? Why would you want to be the same?
    Being different is much better,

  • Mister_Joe

    So when Mummy and Daddy stop loving, you would rather punish the whole family in a frequently disruptive lifestyle? Why?

  • Stephen_Glenn

    Civil partnership doesn’t allow one the same pension rights as marriage does when the partner dies.

    Having to tick in the marital status box “civil partnered” rather than married exposes one’s sexual orientation on certain forms that can affect employment, health care provision, renting etc.

    Being civil partnered does not give you the same protections overseas as being married and in some states can lead to you being persecuted.

  • Dominic Hendron

    Different issue

  • Some of the most damaged adults I know came from a loveless childhood home where there were two parents.

    I can’t see how that it is less of a tragedy for kids than divorce.

    Assuming that divorce isn’t being taken as an easy option, an unavoidable separation carried out properly with calm, communication and the kids kept as the main focus teaches kids a lot more than the lesson of remaining in a dead relationship.

  • Robin Keogh

    I was quoting turgon

  • chrisjones2

    I am not neutral. I see two key issues

    1 what gives the State the right to interfere in the rights of others in a matter that is perhaps one o the most intimate between human beings.

    2 I respect the rights of people to believe what they want – but that does not give them the right to impose those religious beliefs on others beyond the bare minimum needed to protect other citizens

  • chrisjones2

    Sorry guys but the argument on pension rights is a red herring …. in my view its far fore fundamental than that – its just none of politicians business

  • chrisjones2

    “a loving mummy and daddy”

    or loving parents whatever the gender

    ” if it was possible to ban it I would”

    is is less of tragedy that two people being locked together when possibly they loath each other? And why do you assume that the partents will stay together anyway?

    And, above all, what has it got to do with you? Its for those people and that family, not you me or the State

  • chrisjones2

    Or that the churches (all of them) treatment of children right up to the start of this century is being exposed – and it aint pretty

  • chrisjones2

    Ireland 1922 – 1966 ?

    Now Robin, where did that get either of us?

  • chrisjones2

    ” I believe the DUP should not abuse the PoC ” some chance

  • Turgon

    I am merely asking that we have equal rights for all. The fact that you are opposed to such rights is interesting. Why do you want to refuse rights to siblings who have lived and worked together for a life time? Why do you refuse rights to second, third and fourth wives of muslim families?

    If you do not want equality that is fine but stop calling homosexual marriage equal marriage as it is only equal by an extremely narrow definition and fails to support and cherish human love in all its forms.

  • Turgon

    Why do you insist on saying that I am arguing for the opposite of what I have been arguing: you are simply not telling the truth. I am suggesting Union Civile (call it marriage if you will) for anyone and anyone else who can give consent.

  • Turgon

    No I would prefer to end the messy disorganised and patently unfair civil marriage arrangements we now have.

    I would rather wholly separate church and state and allow civil partnership between any person and any other person(s) who wish. This would provide protection to all and would also mean that we would not end up having to revisit the issues again. It would demonstrate us as a beacon of tolerance to those of other cultures and beliefs.

    Finally it would make the faith groups safe as they would not be in a position to sanction civil partnerships / Union Civile / marriage (call it what you will) and would therefore not be in a position to be accused of discrimination.

    Last time we discussed this you used the term “right to a private life.” When I asked you why you are trying to refuse that right to all you ran away. The question still stands. Such rights are universal human rights. As such they should be applied universally. How you can so openly refuse them to people is a level of hypocrisy I find difficult to fathom.

  • Turgon

    Indeed the only sensible option being to make civil partnership the sole legally recognised option. Convert my marriage and everyone else’s in law to a civil partnership: it matters not an iota to me.

    As chrisjones says below this is none of politicians business unless people are being exploited or coerced. As such civil partnership for anyone and anyone else who can validly consent.

    It is time to get the law and politics out of the bedrooms of validly consenting adults. Changing the law to create further unfairness is exactly that: unfair.

  • Slater

    It is all far too late to to split civil and religious marriage into discrete categories. Civil marriage for gays is upon us. The question of sibling marriage or Muslim polygamous marriage or indeed thrupling is a matter for those so involved to fight their corner and campaign for legal reform. (The fact of polygamous partners is already recognised in social security law anyway.)
    Conor’s piece is very moving if slightly worrying that young people are still so riven with fear and horror.

  • Greenflag 2

    Money is never a red herring . Like it or not it exists in ALL relationships . Even dumb politicians know that . .There has to be law governing relationships between people otherwise the powerful, rich and /or criminally inclined would make life intolerable for most people -Go to somewhere where there is no State or government say Somalia and if you make it back lets know how no government works . You could also try north western Mexico’s drug cartel war zone . So called bandit country in South Armagh is a petting zoo by comparison.

    Where there is law there is injustice ( Thrasymachus 3rd century Greece) . Where there is no law there is even more injustice ( Greenflag c 2010 AD )

    Common sense applied through law has to be the solution to this human issue .

  • Gaygael

    I didn’t run away Turgon. As a marriage campaigner this week has been incredibly busy.

    I look forward to your campaign for this complete separation. Strangely, you have only really started to flag it since the gays wanted into marriage.

    The right to a private life was in relation to family rights when the other guy on the other thread was talking nonsense about me already having that right under the proviso that I could marry a woman but not a man.

    Now, what about faith groups that wish to conduct same sex weddings? Where is their freedom of religion? It is currently blocked by unionist politicians who would posit themselves as champions of religious freedom.

    This campaign has been very clear in its aims from the off. If you wish to expand on it, go ahead. Win people over with your force of argument. This is about opening marriage to same sex couples. Not the permutations that you try to distract with.

  • Greenflag 2

    1) Yes all the research into the subject shows that a two parent stable family unit results in the best outcome in terms of educational achievement and less problems in life -financial . social or otherwise .

    2) Divorce is a tragedy but mainly for the children particularly those who are teens or younger.

    3) Rather than banning divorce maybe people need to think a bit more before choosing a marriage partner and even more so before deciding to start a family .

    4 ) Sadly the children of divorced parents have a greater chance of having a divorce in later life than those who have come from stable marriage relationships .

  • Turgon

    “Now, what about faith groups that wish to conduct same sex weddings?”

    Indeed they should be wholly at liberty to do so. Religious groups should be at liberty to bless in a Holy Sacrament or whatever any form of unions they choose and refrain from blessing those of which they disapprove. If you note above I was condemning the mess of the England and Wales compromise whereby the CoE cannot marry homosexuals even if it wants to yet other churches can. I believe the church should be separate from state and do as it pleases.

    Just as muslims should be at liberty to sanction polygamous marriage of up to four women to one man provided all enter into such an arrangement freely and without coercion.

    Why do you seek to deny such a human right and indeed religious freedom to muslims?

    Why do you continue to seek to deny the basic human right of love making to consensual adult biologically related couples?

    Why do you seek to denigrate the platonic love of two siblings who have spent a life time together as lower than your (or my) romantic love?

    Why do you denigrate the platonic love of a sone or daughter who may have given up other prospects (employment, marriage etc.) to care for parents?

    You are as I said before like those whom apartheid South Africa gave a limited fanchise to in the 1980s: willing to take something but deny it to others who in your case are less vocal and less able to argue for their human rights than you.

    I am not trying to distract. I am trying to achieve three things:

    1).Equality of all

    2).Remove the need to revisit this issue again to bring others into the tent

    3).Protection of faith groups or anyone else from being forced to do or indeed prevented from doing things they wish in conscience to do / not do.

    I am frankly disturbed that you refuse to see this. It seems as though once an evangelical Christian proposes something more liberal than you want you see a conspiracy against you. I simply want civil and religious liberty for all.

  • murdockp

    SDLP have just announced one of their candidates to replace Karen Mckevitl, MLA South Down, Sinead Challinor-Bradley

    One would have thought in 2015 it would have ensured that no members who were anti gay marriage would not be put forward for election.

    It just shows the contempt from the electorate the leadership of the party has that this is allowed to happen.

    Hopefully the voters will kick them where it hurts.I don’t want people who don’t believe in equality representing me.

  • Dominic Hendron

    Marriage should be supported by the state and the community at large, its in every ones interest that children are brought up safe and wanted. If a car breaks down we improve the technology and make them better, marriage is more important to society and that should be reflected in our efforts to protect it. I respectfully suggest that the latter is, sadly, not the case.

  • Dominic Hendron

    My comment was more of a reflection.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    This is very naive. Married couples are not necessarily happily married; nor are they always concerned with their child’s welfare.

    A very extreme example is obviously that of Fred and Rose West. I appreciate that such an extreme case is far from common, but based on the rules you suggested such a family atmosphere has a claim on legitimacy that a gay marriage does not.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    If you think that equal marriage (as is now the case in England, Wales and the RoI) should proceed then I apologise and withdraw my comment. Otherwise, my comment is accurate.

  • Keith Pullman

    Under a system of gender equality, there is no good reason to deny that we must keep evolving until an adult, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, monogamy or polyamory, race, or religion is free to share love, sex, residence, and marriage (and any of those without the others) with any and all consenting adults. Polyamory, polygamy, open relationships are not for everyone, but they are for some. The limited same-gender freedom to marry is a great and historic step, but is NOT full marriage equality, because equality “just for some” is not equality. Let’s stand up for EVERY ADULT’S right to marry the person(s) they love. Get on the right side of history!

  • Granni Trixie

    Surely it’s the commitment to love and cherish each other is what counts not a piece of paper. I know many couples with children who never got married and are together twenty or thirty years. I expect however that before they gve up this life they will get married to get inheritance advantages.

  • Granni Trixie

    Whilst I see adultery as ‘wrong’ I do not see co-habiting or having children out
    Of wedlock as wrong. Right and wrong are social constructs hence adjust as people change in their thinking.

  • Dominic Hendron

    I don’t know were you’re getting the “piece of paper” bit I haven’t heard that expression since the 70s

  • Gaygael

    Good, go ahead Turgon.

    It’s a side show distraction from the campaign and issue at stake. Every time the issue of same sex marriage comes up, you flag these selection of red herrings. There is no serious campaign amongst civil society for what you want. Go ahead and start it. You would rather burn down the club than let the gays in. It’s essentially an extension of ‘next we shall have siblings marrying and people marrying animals’

    I refuse to be sidetracked or distracted. This is about same sex couples having their relationships equally recognised by the state, as is afforded heterosexual couples. You can try the semantics on equality, or a half baked understanding of bisexuality. It’s not going to work.

  • Dominic Hendron

    I really don’t know what you’re talking about

  • Turgon

    Marrying animals is not relevant as the animals are not able to give valid consent. Furthermore I since an animal cannot own property etc. I see no advantage to anyone marrying an animal. Whether or not sex with animals should be illegal is a different issue: it is legal in Germany and a number of other countries.

    Valid consent is the key here. I am surprised you do not understand that. Valid consent and equality.

    Siblings marrying, however, provided they are both consenting adults cannot be seen as wrong. Them being criminalised for the act gf love making is clearly a dreadful injustice. If you believe in “Equal Marriage” as you keep claiming to, a failure to support adult consensual sibling marriage and in addition polyamorous marriage etc. is gross hypocrisy.

    There was no serious civil society campaign for homosexual marriage until a couple of decades ago. Indeed at the time of civil partnerships it was made clear that homosexual marriage was not an issue. Using the presence or absence of a campaign to argue for basic freedoms and equality is completely wrong. For a homosexual marriage campaigner to use this is utterly bizarre.

    There is no significant civil society campaign for homosexual marriage in many African and muslim countries. Does that mean that you disagree with homosexual marriage for those countries? Your position is utterly illogical and grossly hypocritical.

    My positions are not a side show. They get to the very heart of what equality actually is.

  • Dominic Hendron

    Beware of “Greeks” bearing gifts

  • Gaygael

    It is a sideshow.

    You are dancing on the head of a pin with regards to how you interpret equality. This campaign is on the premise of sexual orientation and gender identity. How many times must this be repeated to you? If you want to start a separate equal marriage campaign for siblings or polyamory, please be my guest. You may find an ally in court as they say. But desist from trying to use it as precursor to stop access to marriage for LGBT people.

    The campaign will continue to grow around the world. African and Muslim countries will have their day too, in time. At the moment, the focus in those places is decriminilisation or basic non discrimination laws. In some places, the focus is trying to stop the death penalty or life imprisonment. Who is responsible for the dreadfully regressive attempts to introduce the death penalty in Uganda? Evangelicals, funded by American extremists.

    The story of LGBT equality is incremental. We win, bit by bit, bringing more and more allies with us every time, and providing greater social acceptance as more and more of us feel freerer to be who we really are. As more of us are visible, more people know us, and more people support us. The next logical step is marriage in Northern Ireland.

  • PeterBrown

    https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/264844/131210___1625_SSM_and_civil_partnership_diff_table_1_.doc

    Stephen we have had this discussion before and I’m still not sure what the differences on death are other than pension backdating for occupational which will quickly become irrelevant. If the civil partnership box does affect any of those things that’s illegal and will not be reformed by this proposal and the overseas is dies are about orientation not civil partnership and again will not be affected by this proposal. Let’s be honest about this discussion and accept that this is a matter of principle and not about the practical effects.

  • Turgon

    Your poverty of vision, the narrowness of focus, ignoring the much greater needs of homosexuals in other countries (which you have never mentioned before), is breathtaking.

    Your whole analysis is almost farcically parochial and narrow. Nothing whatsoever matters, not fairness, not equality: all that is relevant is the ability for non related same sex sexually / romantically linked individuals to change what is their current pretty complete legal protection (civil partnership) to add to it (and no one else has both options) civil marriage.

    Ironically when someone from a completely different background (such as myself) offers a series of mechanisms by which you get exactly what you want – because let us be clear I have consistently argued for Union Civile for all you reject it because it is not purely for your own group and it might involve protections for others (a conscience clause).

    I will continue to suggest these compromises. I wonder how many more defeats you will need to suffer before you realise there is an honourable way out of this for all which could make NI a beacon of tolerance for all views.

  • William Carr

    History is a very good guide, society moves forward incrementally in matters of rights, The broad brush strategy you suggest would if applied result in absolutely no progress.
    I have never been accused of Daily Mail prudishness before (and i doubt i will be again) but your suggestion does demean the concept of marriage, It meaning will be reduced to the prejudices of the observer, it will have no common meaning.
    Those married in one church may well be viewed as living in sin in another.
    Since Marriage is not Christians (or any other faiths) sole property, Having been around well before belief in the Buddha, Yahweh etc appeared, then i see no reason for any claim of ownership of the word by any or all church’s.
    It is right and proper to permit society to decide who may or may not get married and as history shows this is done as all progress in the field of human rights is done on a case by case basis.
    I think that it is reasonable to assume that if put to the electorate a vote for same sex marriage would easily pass whereas if a vote for a anything goes setup would not, thus halting any progress.

  • Gaygael

    Turgon. I have campaigned for LGBT people world wide. I protested when the Russian football team came here during the introduction of Putins anti-gay laws. If we have held that protest in Russia it would have been a criminal offence under ‘promoting homosexuality’. I don’t grace this board with every measure of my campaigning or activism. I am public (unlike yourself), so it’s not too much hard work to find out what else I’m involved in.

    Campaigns are won when they have clearly articulated aims. This campaign has been about securing access to marriage for LGBT people. Again, it must be reiterated that this campaign is in relation to access to marriage on an equatable basis for LGBT people.

    Your farcical idea of trading marriage for a conscience clause is absolutely ridiculous. A conscience clause as mooted by Givan and other backwoodsmen of the DUP, would allow Christians (and only Christians) to refuse goods, facilities and services ONLY to LGBT people. That means, you and your ilk would be able to refuse us and only us, a whole range of services. From renting houses, to procuring professional services, to eating in your restaurants, to renting your spaces. It ain’t going to happen, so dry your eyes. If that’s your idea of a beacon of tolerance, then you don’t understand the concept.

    The marriage campaign that I support has consistently suggested a review of civil partnerships. Consistently. But don’t let let that get in the way.

    You want to burn the club down before we get into it. Move over, we are coming in. Whether the courts of Stormont, it’s coming. Start your campaign. Good luck with it. As I said, you may find a friend in court. But it won’t sidetrack from our current aim.

    You and your ilk opposed decriminlisation. You lost.
    You opposed equal age of consent. And lost.
    You opposed the gfa protections on sexual orientation. You lost.
    You opposed LGBT serving in the armed forces. You lost.
    You opposed an equal age of consent. You lost.
    You opposed civil partnership legislation. You lost.
    You opposed hate crime protections on sexual orientation. You lost.
    You opposed non discrimination in gfs. You lost.
    You opposed non discrimination in employment. You lost.
    You opposed gender recognition. You lost.
    You opposed gender identity protections. You lost.
    You opposed equal access to apply to adopt. You lost.

    Those who oppose LGBT equality are consistently duplicitous. They pretend that it’s always the current issue at stake that they are opposed to. They adopt a revisionist approach trying to white wash all their previous opposition. Today we have Peter Lynas of the Evangelical alliance taking about upgrading civil partnerships! He opposed them and was part of the coterie that tried to prevent them being extended to Northern Ireland. It doesn’t and won’t wash.

  • Turgon

    You seem happy to ignore anything and everything other than your obsession with your own vision of homosexual marriage in NI.

    Yet despite that you show no interest in a compromise. Instead we have a prolonged rant.

    I have suggested a number of options which would provide you exactly what you want but No, they are unacceptable. All that matters is homosexual marriage on your own terms.

    This lack of flexibility, disinterest in everyone other than yourself and unwillingness to compromise is one of the reasons you have thus far failed in your goal. Indeed those failings may well contribute to a further failure to achieve your goal.

    As to your comments about me opposing things and a long list: they are simply lies. You are making utterly unsubstantiated claims. I have stated I am happy to support Union Civile for any and all. I have suggested a compromise involving homosexual marriage and a conscience clause. Yet you persist in telling lies about me. As but one example decriminalisation of homosexuality occurred two years before I was born. Your ability to know what I would have thought is truly bizarre – no not bizarre – totally dishonest.

    It seems that unless someone accepts your exact opinion on this issue you reject their proposals. As I said above maybe trying to win friends and make compromises would serve you better. I suspect rather you prefer just ranting impotently from your high horse.

    Incidentally I (and I am sure many others) have no idea who you are. Not that that changes anything but it does give the lie to another of your comments above.

  • Gaygael

    No Turgon. It’s simply focuses on the campaign we started in 2010. With clearly articulated aims.

    I used the you plural. You and others like you. The evangelical allinace example was the case in point. Your fevered pitch in favour of the conscience clause and this shut the club down approach to marriage suggests that you fit with those people. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, I’m guessing it’s a duck. The DUP can still not contenace giving up its opposition to decriminlisation. And the TUV the same.
    Are you not a member or supporter? And that’s the type of politics you support. It wasn’t a huge leap to make.

    I don’t wish to make friends with people that want to throw me out of their rented houses, restaurants, hired venues and professional services. I want that to be against the law. As it currently is.

    I won’t waste energy or resource trying to persuade those that have opposed every measure of our equality. Instead I call out their hypocrisy. Instead I spend my energy Winning those that are persuadable. And that’s happening.
    It’s not impotent. We are winning. Nesbitt, buckles in the DUP, opinion poll after opinion poll. Politicians (unionist) are hugely out of step with public opinion on this. That may shift substantially in the next assembly.

    As I said before, maybe when you were championing the conscience clause, my name here is my Twitter handle. Unlike yourself, I am a open and public about who I am. I don’t hide.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    That much is certain.

  • Turgon

    Well having you name as a Twitter handle clearly means that you are not open and public. Not that I demand you tell me who you re. The problem being that you said I do not say who I am unlike you. I am afraid that was simply dishonest

    Saying “You and others like you” is totally dishonest (especially as I was not alive when some of the things you were claiming I opposed happened). I could make unpleasant analogies between a homosexual rights campaigner and other such campaigners who have been found to have done things wrong past or present but that would be grossly unfair both to you personally and to other homosexual rights campaigners.

    I am bemused in your list why you mention the age of consent twice – maybe you can enlighten us?

    You are also incorrect on equal adoption. Single men of whatever sexuality etc. are discriminated against in terms of adoption.

    You might also note Mr. Pullman’s comments at the very bottom of the thread.

    Your continual refusal to do anything other than issue invective is doing your cause and your own personal credibility (not that we know who you are) no good at all.

    If you could use a modicum of civility you might discover that there is common ground between protections, rights and safeguards you desire for your minority group and protections, rights and safeguards the minority group I am a member of also desire.

    In addition you might try to make life equal for everyone. Why would you worry of with a Union Civile system you made homosexuals (and many others) equal with heterosexuals? Is defeating those who you have defined as “the enemy” more important that getting what you want? – it certainly looks that way.

    Instead you persist with painting all evangelical Christians with one brush and call against me things that some Christians may have done before I was born.

    This attitude is I am afraid highly confrontational, simple minded and maybe most importantly for you reduces both your chances of getting what you want and also others’ sympathy for you.

    If by chance you tried apologising for the lies and insults you have levelled against me then we might be able to make a start.

    What say ye?

  • Dominic Hendron

    Lowest form of wit and highest form of intelligence; That much is certain

  • Dominic Hendron

    Oops! forgot the earmarks

  • Gaygael

    Ok let’s dance.

    Gaygael is my Twitter handle and my name and photo is on it. Unlike you, I am brave enough to be publicly visible. As a gay man, that carries a risk. But I’m never staying in a closet. What have you got to hide eh?

    Please list the LGBT equality measures you have supported. I look forward to reading those. I am particularly keen to hear a revisionist approach to this and the type of piecemeal equality that you will throw down from your table to me.

    The reference to the equal age of consent is part of an attempt at chronological order, in terms of the attempts for LGBT equality. It was reduced in 1994 from 21 to 18 and then equalised to 16/17 in 2003. But you know, it’s easy to do a side eye at the gays and age of consent. It fits your narrow mind. It says a huge deal about you that you resurrected a homophobic trope re age of consent. Shame. Although to be fair, I expect little else.

    Re adoption, you are wrong. Single people regardless of sexual orientation (not sexuality, try getting the language right eh?) could apply for adoption. Heterosexual married couples could apply jointly. Unmarried heterosexual and civil partners were barred from applying jointly. Until Poots was slapped down repeatedly and finally by the courts in December 2013.

    I believe that sexual orientation, gender or relationship status should not disbar anyone from applying to adopt. I believe the criteria should be exacting and strict to ensure that the most vulnerable of children are placed in the most loving and capable households. Sexual orientation, gender and relationship status should not figure in these criterion. You probably disagree. I won’t put words in your mouth and let you answer for yourself.

    What rights and protections do you seek that are currently not afforded you? The burn down a club one? The one that allows you to refuse goods and services to the dirty gays? I don’t believe there are any civil rights not currently afforded to evangelicals? I’m keen to hear of there are.

    Your patronising attitute and professed moral superiority do little to forward your cause. Asking for special exemptions from equality law, preferring a scorched earth approach rather than letting the gays in, and your distasteful innuendo says more than I need to know.

    As I said before, if it speaks like a homophobe, behaves like a homophobe, and posits attitudes of a homophobe, it probably is a homophobe.

  • Turgon

    Gaygael,

    I am not a homophobe so try not to tell lies.

    Single men find adoption extremely difficult. It is not a level playing field. I am unsure if they can ever adopt girls.

    You still have not explained your bizarre insistence on mentioning the age of consent twice. Had you any humility suggesting you made a mistake might be a good idea.

    To describe my view as “piecemeal equality” is quite simply a lie. Unlike you I seek equality for all.

    Christians have suffered a number of defeats in the courts (wearing crosses etc.) and as such protections would be welcomed. Unfortunately your monomania with homosexual marriage seems to blind you to inequality elsewhere – either that or you simply do not care.

    I do not tweet so I do not know who you are. My privacy is because in my job I am involved with large numbers of people. I have never treated anyone differently on any basis but i have very good reason to be private. that said so long has my commenting been on here that if I said I was John Smith or whatever that would have less resonance than Turgon.

    The reality gaygael is that you are the one who is the narrow minded bigot. You despise any who refuse to accept your views lock, stock and barrel. You will ride roughshod over everyone else in order to achieve your monomania over homosexual marriage. Ironically so obsessed are you with getting your way via only your own means that you reduce your own chances of success.

    If I was opposed to homosexual marriage (which I am not as part of a comprehensive settlement) I would actually be pleased.

    How many more defeats will it take for you to understand you are amongst the homosexual marriage campaign’s worst enemies which is truly ironic.

    You remind me of the old adage You never forget and never learn.

  • Gaygael

    I suggest that all evidence presented and your opposition to any element of LGBT equality and trying to invent exemptions for equality law so that only you can discriminate against LGBT people is a resonance rationale for calling you out as a homophobe.

    Single men (regardless of orientation) may find the adoption process difficult but they are not barred from applying. You say you are unsure. So maybe go and check it out before proffering comment. Instead it seems you are ill informed but basing some assumptions on your own prejudice.

    If you hadn’t been so quick to jump at me, and actually bothered to read my response, you will see why I listed consent twice. But hey, just willfully ignore it and resurrect some homophobic tropes instead. Twice. It says a lot.

    So seeking rights and protections denuded to defeats in court when challenged. What you fail to understand is that removal of privilege and equality for others does not remove your equality. I’m still waiting on some rights and protections that are currently not afforded you.

    Wearing crosses is another red herring. Good god, you are fond of them.

    And I will take your word that you don’t treat people differently in your job. You just want the law to change so that you can, and you actively champion a change in law to allow you to discriminate. Maybe it does or maybe it doesn’t filter into your professional practice. I suppose we will never know.

    And yet you have the audacity to call me a bigot. The man that wants to enshrine bigotry in law! I am seeking to change the law to end discrimination. I am seeking a change in law that promotes religious freedom and supports equality. No faith group will be forced to conduct same sex marriages. Ironic that this secular atheist is championing religious freedom.

    Your comprehensive settlement deal is a fallacy. If you think any LGBT rights campaigners are going to accept a union civille arrangement premised on a homophobic conscience clause, then you are very much mistaken. That’s giving rights in one hand will snatching them away with another. Nobody is going to do that deal, so go back to your drawing board and start again.

    You are perfectly entitled to your opinion of me. To be frank, I don’t care for it. Note I call you out here on a public forum when I disagree with you but I do respect some of your wider political analysis. I reserve a different approach for others in different fora. But I won’t cow tow or tiptoe around people that want to limit my rights and enshrine their own prejudices in law.

    We have already lost today with the abuse of the petition of concern. We take the defeats on the chin, learn from them and get up again. What harm is a lost vote compared to the hundreds of reported hate crimes committed against LGBT people in Northern Ireland ever year? We are winning. And like all other LGBT equality battles, we will eventually win this one. The tide of travel is one way. We follow the same path set out be other minority groups seeking equality. We are just a little further behind.

    What do you and your faith group lose if Michael and I marry? Nothing except the privilege of having had things your own way. Nothing else.

  • Gaygael

    That was a nice result today eh?