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DO THE GAY ACTIVISTS ALLIANCE SUPPORT IAN PAISLEY ???

Out-take from Gay Star No. 2
July / August 1980

DO THE GAY ACTIVISTS ALLIANCE SUPPORT IAN PAISLEY ???

During the recent Gay Pride Week in London, members of the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association were attacked at a meeting organised by the Gay Activists Alliance by supporters of the Troops Out Movement who argued that we should not be making any demands for a change in the law.  They said that the Government, which could make those changes, the Westminster Government, is a foreign Government which has no business legislating for Northern Ireland. By demand-ing changes in the law we are recognising the right of this foreign Government to rule over us.
It’s funny how one always has to go to London to hear arguments like that.  No one here has ever suggested that we put our interests into cold storage until the great day when Mr. Haughey becomes our Prime Minister.  Whether we want to see a united Ireland or maintain the union with Great Britain, the argument is stupid and only English people – or people who have been living a long time in England – could have thought of it.

THE CONSTITUTIONAL QUESTION
NIGRA is solely concerned with improving the lot of homosexuals in Northern Ireland.  It contains members with nationalist sympathies and members with unionist sympathies.  NIGRA as such will continue to work for gay people whatever government is in power.  We don’t argue that our interests are necessarily more important than the Constitutional question, but we leave it to members who feel strongly on either side of that question to join whatever other political bodies they like, without their decision prejudicing their membership of NIGRA.
At present, Northern Ireland exists as a region governed by Westminster and separate from the Republic.  There is no point in us asking favours from Mr Haughey who – in the unlikely event of his wanting to – can do nothing for us.  Westminster is the government with which we have to deal.  If that situation changes, we will change with it.
But perhaps our interests are affected by such ‘political’ considerations.  One thing we can probably all agree is that we don’t want to be governed by Dr Paisley who has been very active in opposition to us.  Paisley is very popular in Northern Ireland not because of his campaign against us, but because he has represented himself as the most hard line opponent of a united Ireland.  And, rightly or wrongly, most of the people living here are strongly opposed to a united Ireland.

PAISLEY IN POWER?
Because of Paisley’s popularity, any devolved government in Northern Ireland – whether it is relatively powerless thing proposed by Humphrey Atkins [the then Secretary of State – upstart 2013] or a full-blown independent Parliament – is likely to be headed by Paisley.  That is not a prospect that can fill us with delight.  So we are not enthusiastic about the idea of having a devolved government in Northern Ireland.
Furthermore, although the law in the rest of the United Kingdom is far from satisfactory, it is still better than the law here and in the Republic (where, in both places, the pre-1967 laws are still in force).
We are therefore pressing for the same laws to apply throughout the UK.  And in that general principle we have – according to a recent opinion poll – the support of over 90% of both Protestants and Catholics.  For most people, homosexuality is a marginal issue and, in what they would see as the main issues, we have always had much the same legislation as the rest of the UK, since Stormont used to pursue a ‘step by step’ policy of keeping in line with Westminster.  For example, we have the welfare legislation Labour introduced after the war [WW2 – upstart 2013] despite the fact that our largely Tory devolved government disliked it.  Since there is no great desire for legislation that is very different from that passed at Westminster, it seems that, so long as we remain in the UK, there is no need for us to have any sort of devolved Parliament.

REMOVAL OF THE TROOPS
But the Troops Out supporters aren’t interested in such a modest, ‘reformist’ approach.  They think that we should throw our interests as homosexuals to the winds, and lend all our support to efforts to get rid of the army (i. e. that we should join the Provisionals.  Or possibly the Irish Independence Party [the ‘double-I’ P, now defunct. It, like the People’s Democracy, ‘kept the seats warm’ for Sinn Féin – upstart 2013] who are the only people who are calling immediate withdrawal of the troops).  The likely result of the immediate withdrawal of the troops (after a period of open and vicious warfare) would be the establishment of an independent Ulster – with Paisley on top.  If there were to be a united Ireland, the troops would have to enforce it.  Is this what these people want?  Is it what they think we should want?
No.  We are not prepared to campaign for the removal of the troops.  And we are even prepared to oppose the removal of the troops unless there is some guarantee that it won’t result in a (possibly smaller) Paisleyite state.  And as long as we are in the UK, we want (at least) the same laws as far as homosexuals are concerned as prevail in the rest of the UK.  In making this demand, we expect the support of everyone throughout the UK who is involved in gay politics.  And we support them in their search for further changes.  AS far as those of us who want to see a united Ireland are concerned, that no more compromises their principles than demanding better pay and conditions would compromise the principles of a trade unionist who wanted to see a united Ireland.
The only possible effect of the policy proposed by the Gay Activists Alliance would be to split us into a Republican Gay Rights Movement and a Loyalist Gay Rights Movement, both of them subjecting their particular interests as gays to the greater interest of their respective ’causes’.  We are not prepared to oblige them.
Semi-editorial written, probably by Peter Brooke, then – 1980 – GS Editor.

Tel Aviv's Gay Holocaust Victims Memorial Unveiled

By ARON HELLER 01/10/14 11:49 AM ET EST AP

tel aviv gay holocaust memorial

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — Israel’s cultural and financial capital unveiled a memorial Friday honoring gays and lesbians persecuted by the Nazis, the first specific recognition in Israel for non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

Tucked away in a Tel Aviv park, a concrete, triangle-shaped plaque details the plight of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people under Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich. It resembles the pink triangles Nazis forced gays to wear in concentration camps during World War II and states in English, Hebrew and German: “In memory of those persecuted by the Nazi regime for their sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The landmark joins similar memorials in Amsterdam, Berlin, San Francisco and Sydney dedicated to gay victims of the Holocaust. While Israel has scores of monuments for the genocide, the Tel Aviv memorial is the first that deals universally with Jewish and non-Jewish victims alike and highlights the Jewish state’s rise as one of the world’s most progressive countries for gay rights.

“I think in Israel today it is very important to show that a human being is a human being is a human being,” Mayor Ron Huldai said at the dedication ceremony, where a rainbow flag waved alongside Israel’s blue-and-white flag. “It shows that we are not only caring for ourselves but for everybody who suffered. These are our values — to see everyone as a human being.”

Israel was born out of the Holocaust and its 6 million Jewish victims remains seared in the country’s psyche. Israel holds an annual memorial day where sirens stop traffic across the nation, it sends soldiers and youth on trips to concentration camp sites and often cites the Holocaust as justification for an independent Jewish state so Jews will “never again” be defenseless.

But after 70 years, Tel Aviv councilman Eran Lev thought it was time to add a universal element to the commemoration. Lev is one of many gays elected to public office in Tel Aviv, a city with a vibrant gay scene that has emerged as a top international destination for gay tourism.

“The significance here is that we are recognizing that there were other victims of the Holocaust, not just Jews,” said Lev, who initiated the project during his brief term in office.

As part of their persecution of gays, the Nazis kept files on 100,000 people, mostly men. About 15,000 were sent to camps and at least half were killed. Other Nazi targets included communists, Slavs, gypsies and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Unlike their persecution of Jews, however, there was no grand Nazi plan to exterminate gays. Nazis viewed being gay as a “public health problem” since those German men did not produce children, said Deborah Dwork, director of the Strassler Family Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.

“The idea was to change their behavior, not to eradicate them, not to murder them,” Dwork said.

The policy was far from sweeping — as evidenced by the rampant homosexuality among the ranks of the Nazi Party’s SA paramilitary wing, which helped pave Hitler’s path to power. The most famous gay Nazi was Ernst Röhm, one of the most powerful men in the party before Hitler had him executed in 1934.

Later, the Nazis outlawed homosexuality and the Gestapo set up a special unit targeting homosexuality. In the Buchenwald concentration camp, the Nazis carried out experiments to try and “cure” homosexuality. Those sent to the camps were forced to wear pink triangles, compared to the yellow stars that Jews bore on their clothing. Gay Jews wore an emblem that combined the two colors.

Today, Israel is one of the world’s most progressive countries in terms of gay rights. Gays serve openly in Israel’s military and parliament. The Supreme Court grants a variety of family rights such as inheritance and survivors’ benefits. Gays, lesbians and a transsexual are among the country’s most popular musicians and actors.

Moshe Zimmermann, a professor from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the memorial project’s historical adviser, said the Tel Aviv monument marked a big step in Israel by ridding itself from what he called a monopoly of victim hood.

“We are finally shedding the load of being the lone and ultimate victim,” he said. “We can learn from this that by recognizing the victimhood of others, it does not diminish the uniqueness of your own victim hood.”

 

Further reading:

 

  1. Original Article – Huffington Post
  2. BBC News Article
  3. BN&S Commentary
  4. The Gay Holocaust Lagers

USI PINK TRAINING – Gay Rights

USI PINK TRAINING

QUB Peter Froggatt centre

Friday 22 November 2013, 7pm

 

OPENING SPEECH BY JEFFREY DUDGEON MBE

My thanks go to the Union of Students in Ireland for inviting me to open their Pink Training Event tonight and to Laura Harmon (and Ben Archibald) for organising it.

Your numbers here tonight, in the hundreds, (c. 300) and your enthusiasm are seriously impressive.

Pink Training has been happening almost as long as Belfast Gay Pride which is quite something for the student world, where corporate memory is necessarily brief.

My student days in Dublin were gay enough but not in organisational terms. I was at the university of life, with too many evenings spent in the famous, indeed unequalled, Dublin gay bar, Bartley Dunne’s, in the late 1960s.

It was only after gay liberation that our anger and indeed rage was channelled into groups and meetings, by which time I was back living in Belfast. QUB was very much in the vanguard having hosted a Gay Liberation Society from about 1972. One of the founders was the theatre director Andy Hinds from Derry. It was a curious mixture of town and gown that worked. relationships were intense too.

Indeed GLS, by 1975, had a grant and offices in an unused building round the corner in 4 University Street. Best of all we organised and ran discos in the Queen’s Students Union which became famous in the worst of times in this city, for fun and dancing. We were so popular gays were in danger of being outnumbered by straights.

Then we knuckled down to thirty years of equality campaigning not least by means of my successful Strasbourg case, funded in part by those very same discos.

The Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association (NIGRA) was born, and Cara-Friend (CF), the befriending and information organisation. Both exist to this day.

Our twilight existence where we were getting funding and support – despite being criminals, indeed part of a conspiracy, came to an abrupt end in the great police round-up of 1976. All male NIGRA and CF committee members were arrested although none – after months of waiting – were ever charged.

The consequent case at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg took six long grinding years before we won in 1981. A year later the government was forced to decriminalise in a law put through the House of Commons late at night against the wishes of all NI political parties (and shamefully even gay Unionist MPs I later discovered).

This was a European first and laid the groundwork for a host of later successes at the Court, not least in the south of Ireland where we eased the path for David Norris and for Alexander Modinos in Cyprus. And it was even quoted in the recent US Supreme Court Texas sodomy case.

My lawyer antagonists at the Court prospered. The UK’s lead barrister against me, in time, became the President of the Strasbourg Court, while Sir Brian Kerr was to become the NI Lord Chief Justice and now sits on the UK Supreme Court.

But we won. We beat them. A successful group effort in Belfast and beyond made the difference.

It remains unquestionable and remarkable – and maybe it tells you something – that the two best-known, and most written about, gay characters in the last 100 years were both Irish, and both went to jail, although only one to the scaffold.

Roger Casement, whose biography I have written, was brought up partly in Antrim, going to school in Ballymena. He became an Irish separatist and helped found and arm the Irish Volunteers (Óglaigh na hÉireann), the forerunner of the IRA, exactly a century ago. His landing of arms from Germany in 1916 led to a charge of treason and the death penalty exacted by an inevitably anti-gay government.

It matters that Casement was gay, not least because it is unlikely, otherwise, he would have been such a rebel. (I reprinted those diaries in my book, including the never-before-or-since published 1911 diary which is the most seriously sexual.)

One of the complaints of those argue that the Casement Black Diaries are forged – and there are still a number who say so – is that homosexuals are trying to turn Casement into a gay icon.

This assertion infers that gay men are, as a class, historically minded, which has more than a grain of truth. The notion however that Casement has a cult following like James Dean or Marilyn Monroe is laughable.

He is no gay icon, as he did not address the matter in his career but he lived the life extensively, wrote it up more so and that is interesting. He did however become something of a religious icon because of his saintly looks.

Up close, everyone is human so it is unwise to admire too much – Oscar Wilde, WH Auden, Christopher Isherwood, James Baldwin, Harvey Milk, Peter Tatchell might be or become gay icons. But they are, or were, like us all, flawed, and sometimes less than attractive.

My personal icon would be the 1950s law reformer and Ulster Unionist MP, Harford Montgomery Hyde. He was also author of The Other Love, a History of Homosexuality in Britain and Ireland, which is still a book to consult although overtaken, where Ireland is concerned, by Brian Lacey’s 2008 work Terrible Queer Creatures – Homosexuality in Irish History.

Montgomery Hyde did more for us than most, and paid the price in career terms by being deselected for his North Belfast seat in 1959. This was as a result of being the most prominent MP in the House of Commons pressing for decriminalisation.

One of his opponents then was a young preacher, Ian Paisley, who came to prominence as leader of the Save Ulster From Sodomy campaign in the 1970s. His sidekick was Peter Robinson now our First Minister. We had our work cut out dealing with their disturbing and at times intimidating and extensive operation.

Being anti-gay or trying to keep us criminal rarely blighted political and legal careers. But we won. They didn’t. It is they who have changed, if grudgingly.

One becomes history after two generations, even if still alive. I know. I am just that. History.

But I still have a life in politics to a large degree, and to a smaller degree now in gay matters particularly in relation to policing and law reform. Others, in a range of organisations, do the bulk of the work.

We have continued to achieve significant victories around equality. One example is the election to councils of the first out lesbians and gays. These are people selected as candidates by their parties in full knowledge of their sexuality and then voted in by the electorate.

And one of those councillors, Andrew Muir, is currently the Mayor of North Down. He is from the Alliance Party, interestingly elected in part by his DUP colleagues.

And unnoticed, indeed unremarked, a gay member of the Ulster Unionist Party is one of its two representatives at the talks chaired by Dr Richard Haass and Professor Meghan O’Sullivan of the New York Council on Foreign Relations.

I – for it is me – have just come from two meetings and four hours with the American pair, tasked to try and find a way forward, with the five executive political parties, on the dividing issues of Flags, Parades and The Past. Hence my photo-opportunity suit and imperial purple tie.

To be an active Unionist does not mean you are an ex-gay, something some seem to believe.

Finally, coming up to date on campaigning, what are the current issues being addressed by local activists?

In truth, we are heading towards becoming a protected species and need fear little or no hostility from officialdom. This may not hold for ever, I would caution.

However the perennial issue of violence against LGBT people remains, as can be seen from the recent trial of the murderers of Andrew Lorimer in Lurgan and of Shaun Fitzpatrick in Dungannon. In Andrew’s case the sentences were pitiful and it is to be hoped that they are reviewed by the PPS. Indeed it would be of assistance if you were to consider writing to Barra McGrory (the head of the Public Prosecution Service) accordingly.

The fact remains that über-violence is meted out in these horrendous attacks. That will take decades to reduce as it involves one of the baser instincts in many males – fear of women. And of homosexuals – homophobia in the strictest sense of the word against gay men and lesbians. And Transphobia especially so, a greater treason, as can be seen from their casualty count world-wide.

Otherwise gay or equal marriage, the blood donation ban and changing of the adoption laws are the issues of today.

Each of these reforms can and will be advanced in the courts. Our local Assembly for complicated reasons can’t or won’t do the needful. It came into being and is, to a degree, supported by those who want to avoid changing such laws.

So be it. We can get round them but it is producing the same anger and rage as we felt in the 1970s. And the same productive resistance.

So far the Minster of Health has lost cases on adoption and blood donation. How he proceeds, if he does at all, remains a matter of concern.

Gay marriage which will soon be uniquely absent in these islands is a harder nut to crack. Reform will be a matter of trench warfare in the local courts while ultimate victory, in a successful Strasbourg case, may be a decade away.

So welcome to Belfast. Do enjoy your days and nights here, and the pleasures of the city, take care in relation to illegal pills being peddled which have caused ten deaths here in recent months, and thank you for your kind reception.

To conclude, I open this USI weekend of Pink Training.

 

Jeff Dudgeon (NIGRA Treasurer)

15 years after Matthew Shepard: so much achieved for gay rights, but so much more to do

I remember reading my copy of Gay Times about the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard. At the time I ended up in tears, and this evening re-reading about the murder, looking at photographs of those responsible as well as of that infamous fence in the State of Wyoming and the well known family photo of Matthew. The Matthew Shepard Foundation posted the following status on Facebook, and I feel that we should spread it wider.

1243162_595280560534122_1768961158_o“15 years ago this evening, Matthew Shepard was driven from the Fireside Lounge in Laramie, Wyoming to the outskirts of the city by two strangers who did not like that he was gay. They tied him to a fence, beat him with the butt of a gun, and left him for dead.

“The Casper Star Tribune, Matthew’s hometown newspaper, ran a beautiful story of the contradictions Wyoming still has in the acceptance and treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

“These contradictions parallel those at the national and international level as well. Just because same-sex couples can get married in 13 states and the District of Columbia doesn’t mean that these couples don’t have to think about their rights when they go on vacation. Or get transferred for work and move to one of the 29 states in which you can be fired for being gay, 33 for being transgender.

“While progress has been made over the last 15 years, we have a long way to go before we have true, meaningful equality.”

— Matthew Shepard Foundation Facebook page

So much achieved, yet so much still to do

So much has been achieved for gay rights across the world in the years since Matthew’s cruel death, but we have still so much to do. Fifteen years on, the same homophobia seen in Wyoming in 1998 is very much alive and well here in Northern Ireland.

  • A man had his nose broken nose during a homophobic assault on the Dublin to Belfast train between Newry and Portadown in December 2012. (Belfast Telegraph)
  • Henry McDonald wrote in the Guardian that the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland found in some research that 80% of homophobic attacks here in Northern Ireland are not reported.
  • Thug jailed for homophobic attack in Belfast gay bar reported in the Belfast Telegraph in June 2013
  • In September three men admitted the manslaughter of Andrew Lorimer in Lurgan in what is a suspected homophobic attack.
  • A drug addict took a legal high before he attacked a man and shouted homophobic abuse at him, a court heard in July 2013. (BBC News)

The cases illustrated above are those which have made it into a quick search on Google. I am sure that there have been many more homophobic incidents since this time last year. As the Police Service of Northern Ireland has said in the past,

“Hate crime is unacceptable, no one deserves to experience it and no one deserves to get away with it. To stop it, report it, do not suffer in silence.”

It is clear to me that we must continue to stand up for our rights, not just against homophobic attacks but the anti-gay policies of the DUP health minister, Edwin Poots, who seems to be leading a new crusade against our rights in his relentless appeals against decisions of the Northern Irish Courts relating to the Gay Blood Ban, and Adoption by Gay Couples.

Anyone interested in working towards full equality for all who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender, please get in touch and help stand alongside our brothers and sisters in the Matthew Shepard Foundation working to ‘Erase Hate’ now.