Pushing the Boundaries; Decriminalising Homosexuality 1974-1982: The Role of the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association by Jeffrey Dudgeon & Richard Kennedy

BBC suspends gay journalist

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… who said he was ‘ashamed’ to work there after they refused to axe Tyson Fury from Sports Personality shortlist over homophobic views

  • Television journalist Andy West claims he has been suspended by BBC
  • Made Facebook post voicing disgust at Tyson Fury’s award nomination
  • ‘Ashamed’ at employer shortlisting boxer who voiced homophobic views
  • Petition to have Fury’s award nod withdrawn has reached 131,000 names
  • See full news coverage from the BBC at

The BBC has suspended a gay news reporter who said he was ‘ashamed’ to work for the company after homophobic boxer Tyson Fury was nominated as their Sports Personality of the Year.

Award-winning television journalist Andy West claims he has been ordered off work after voicing his opinion against the World Heavyweight champion’s inclusion on the contest’s shortlist.

West posted on Facebook voicing his ‘hurt’ that his employer had even considered Fury for the prestigious annual award.

Andy West (pictured, receiving an award from BBC anchor Huw Edwards) claims he has been suspended by the company for saying he was 'ashamed' Tyson Fury is nominated as Sports Personality of the Year

Andy West (pictured, receiving an award from BBC anchor Huw Edwards) claims he has been suspended by the company for saying he was ‘ashamed’ Tyson Fury is nominated as Sports Personality of the Year

In a post made on Twitter, the BBC Northern Ireland presenter said: 'I can't say more but, as of yesterday, I am suspended by the BBC pending investigation. 'I made my bed now I have time to lie in it!'

In a post made on Twitter, the BBC Northern Ireland presenter said: ‘I can’t say more but, as of yesterday, I am suspended by the BBC pending investigation. ‘I made my bed now I have time to lie in it!’

In a post made on Twitter, the BBC Northern Ireland presenter said: ‘I can’t say more but, as of yesterday, I am suspended by the BBC pending investigation.

‘I made my bed now I have time to lie in it!’ 

West, like many others, was speaking out after taking offence to homophobic and sexist remarks made by Fury (pictured) during an interview with the Mail on Sunday. Speaking to Oliver Holt, the towering fighter linked homosexuality and paedophilia, suggesting it should be made illegal

West, like many others, was speaking out after taking offence to homophobic and sexist remarks made by Fury (pictured) during an interview with the Mail on Sunday. Speaking to Oliver Holt, the towering fighter linked homosexuality and paedophilia, suggesting it should be made illegal

West (pictured) posted on Facebook voicing his 'hurt' that his employer had even considered Fury for the prestigious annual award

West (pictured) posted on Facebook voicing his ‘hurt’ that his employer had even considered Fury for the prestigious annual award

Kellie Maloney says Tyson Fury should be picked up on his controversial comments about women and homosexuality”}”>

Kellie Maloney: Tyson Fury should say sorry for remarks

“:”Boxing promoter Kellie Maloney says Tyson Fury should be picked up on his controversial comments about women and homosexuality”}”>

 According to the Belfast Telegraph, West originally wrote on Facebook: ‘My employer is hurting me and other gay people by celebrating someone who considers me no better than a paedophile and who believes homosexual people are helping to bring about the end of the world.

‘It’s tempting to see him for the laughable idiot he is but sadly there are many other idiots who will be inspired and encourage by his naive, juvenile bigotry.

‘I am ashamed to work for the BBC when it lacks bravery to admit it is making a mistake.

‘I criticise the BBC for offering him as an idol to be celebrated and admired not just for his sporting achievements but also his ‘personality’.’

The Sports Personality awards bash is to be held in Belfast on December 20, with BBC Northern Ireland - West's employer - heavily involved in covering it

The Sports Personality awards bash is to be held in Belfast on December 20, with BBC Northern Ireland – West’s employer – heavily involved in covering it

West, like many others, was speaking out after taking offence to homophobic and sexist remarks made by Fury, 27, during an interview with the Mail on Sunday.

Speaking to Oliver Holt, the towering fighter linked homosexuality and paedophilia, suggesting it should be made illegal.

His controversial comments were brought to the fore after he defeated Wladimir Klitschko to become World Heavyweight champion last month and was then put on the Sports Personality shortlist days later.

Mr West says he has written to the BBC director general, Tony Hall, over Fury’s nomination. He is expected to be questioned about the boxer’s award nod by the culture, media and sport select committee next week.

More than 131,000 people have signed a petition asking for Tyson’s name to be removed from the list.

Greater Manchester Police have confirmed they are investigating hate crime allegations against the boxer.

The glitzy Sports Personality awards bash is to be held in Belfast on December 20, with BBC Northern Ireland heavily involved in covering it.

A BBC spokesperson said: ‘We do not routinely comment on individual staff matters.’



Half of UK's Young Adults Not '100 Percent Heterosexual'

Originally published on August 18 2015 9:32 AM ET

A stunning survey by YouGov UK has found that 23 percent of British people surveyed do not consider themselves exclusively heterosexual. As many as 49 percent of adults aged 18-24 described themselves as “not 100 percent heterosexual,” indicating bisexuality is more common among younger adults, who enjoy more sexual fluidity.

The survey used a modified Kinsey scale to measure sexuality by asking participants to place themselves on a range between “exclusively heterosexual” and “exclusively homosexual.” Kinsey’s groundbreaking study of human sexuality found that 10 percent of males were “more or less exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55.” The British survey found that four percent of total respondents identified as “completely homosexual.”

Younger adults tend to be more willing to experiment with members of the same-sex than older adults, according to the survey. Six percent of young adults classified themselves as completely homosexual, but 43 percent identified as neither exclusively homosexual or heterosexual.

While most of respondents still identified as heterosexual or homosexual, the scale numbered between zero (completely heterosexual) and six (completely homosexual) allows for subjects to be more specific about their sexuality and indicate that they have had experiences or attractions outside of their declared identity.

“Clearly, these figures are not measures of active bisexuality – overall, 89 percent of the population describes themselves as heterosexual – but putting yourself at level one allows for the possibility of homosexual feelings and experiences,” researchers wrote. “More than anything, it indicates an increasingly open minded approach to sexuality.”

“In a further set of questions asking if respondents could conceivably be attracted to, have sex with or have a relationship with someone of the same sex (if the right person came along at the right time), level ones were at least 35 percent more likely to say they could than level zeroes.”

According to the research, the closer heterosexual identified respondents rated themselves closer to a three (completely bisexual), the chance that they have had a sexual experience with a member of the opposite sex increased. The survey found 23 percent of those at level one have had a sexual encounter with a member of the opposite sex, while 52 percent of people at level two have had such an experience.

Read the full results of the survey here.

Bil Browning

Malcolm by Bruce Perry

Malcolm by Bruce Perry

Malcolm: The Life of a Man Who Changed Black America

by Bruce Perry

Publisher: Station Hill Press; 1st Edition edition (26 Sept. 1991)

This huge book has 380 pages of text, 25 of introduction contents, and pictures of Malcolm X at the beginning and the end of his ministry as a Muslim minister, 128 pages of notes, eleven pages of bibliography, nine of people interviewed, two of acknowledgements, another 11 of index, a page of photographic acknowledgements, another pic of Malcolm reading, and lastly, eight glossy plates with 13 photographs.

An exhaustive biography you might think, but while we get the chronology of his life, Malcolm X, (born ‘Little’) is still an indistinct figure at the end.  This is possibly because he became a great speaker, but Perry reproduces rather little of his speeches, sermons, or debates.  Malcolm seems to have been the man who made the NOI (Nation of Islam), which was just another wacky American sect before he converted.  It was confined to the Chicago area until he took the East Coast in hand.

Malcom X Quote

The East Coast meant New York, with its enormous Black population centred on Harlem, but he opened mosques (called ‘temples’ by NOI) from New England down to Atlanta, Georgia.  He was also in charge of the temple in Los Angeles, on the West Coast.  Malcolm’s work made the leadership of NOI fabulously rich, especially ‘the Messenger, Elijah Muhammed’, and his family.  Malcolm helped set up the journal Muhammed Speaks, another money-spinner.

When he could no longer ignore the financial (and sexual) chicanery, Malcolm denounced it (he was straining against NOI’s political absence from the Civil Rights struggle).  The journal was used to traduce him, and openly called for his assassination.  This came on Sunday, February 21st, 1966 – the killers being acknowledged members of the Nation of Islam.

This book is of interest to the general reader, but, in Bruce Perry’s bibliography is found “Socarides, Charles W Homosexuality, J Aronson Inc, 1978 – yes Malcom ws ‘family’.  From his very early teens until his thirties, he engaged in homosex: at two different schools he got a name as a “sissy”, and also had, in effect, a ‘camp name’, Madame Harpy”.

In his teens and twenties he swung wildly from sissified unatheicism to extremes of violent physical endeavour: football, basketball, boxing.  In prison, even after his conversion, he liked to hang out with the athletes and bodybuilders.

Perry, quoting Socarides, gives us the old absent father and dominant mother business.  He does not mention hi slove of guns and big cars, in his criminal day, the Freudian, phallic implications are ignored.  So is his appalling attitude to women.  As a crook, he lived off them, and enjoyed screwing white women, and having them seen on his arm.  HIs wife, Betty Shabazz (a professional, before converting to the Nation of Islam) was treated distantly, even cruelly.  Admittedly, Malcolm’s attitudes began to change after he broke with Elijah Muhammed, and the NOI, and wasn’t much different from other men’s in the 1940s to ’60s period.

If Ravel can be recruited into the ‘family’ on the strength of one song, Malcolm surely can be on the strength of many years of dedicated homosexuality.


Election Fever – Peter Robinson on Homosexuality

Editorial: During Election Fever it does happen that some leaders become leaders, some become leaders in waiting, and some become leaders who are wanting.  We would suggest that you view this interview with Peter Robinson, look at the history of the DUP, and decide for yourselves whether the DUP are a progressive party with LGBT rights built into their DNA!

So have the DUP  a policy over LGBT rights, Asa Bennett wrote in his column, that David Cameron would not find it easy to create an alliance with the DUP because of their track history, i.e.

Jim Wells  resigned as the DUP’s health minister after recently saying that “the gay lobby is insatiable, they don’t know when enough is enough”, adding: “The facts show that you certainly don’t bring a child up in a homosexual relationship. That child is far more likely to be abused or neglected”.

Iris Robinson, a former DUP MP and wife of the current party leader, Peter Robinson, described homosexuality as “disgusting, loathsome, nauseating, wicked and vile”, as well as an “abomination” that could be “cured”. Mr Robinson supported his wife’s remarks, saying: “It wasn’t Iris Robinson who determined that homosexuality was an abomination, it was The Almighty. This is the Scriptures. It is a strange world indeed where somebody on the one hand talks about equality, but won’t allow Christians to have the equality, the right to speak, the right to express their views.”

Obviously other parties have made comment on this interview,

Alliance Justice spokesperson, Stewart Dickson MLA, has criticised Peter Robinson’s remarks that if homosexuality was criminalised that he hoped they would obey the law.

Mr Robinson was questioned by the BBC on the remarks by his Mid Ulster Councillor, Paul McLean, who wanted homosexuality to be criminalised.

Stewart Dickson MLA said: “These remarks are just the latest in a long line of disgraceful and appalling comments by the DUP about the LGBT community. It beggars belief that Mr Robinson would want men and women to deny their own sexuality. He is completely out of step with British values and core beliefs.

“It is an indication of Mr Robinson’s position on these issues that he did not condemn the views of his Councillor who wanted homosexuality to be criminalised.

“Mr Robinson has got himself tied up in knots. If you are asked a question on this issue then your answer should be that you would not support the criminalisation of homosexuality.


Further Reading:

Religion and homosexuality

Editorial:According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world.  The relationship between religion and homosexuality can vary greatly across time and place, within and between different religions and denominations, and regarding different forms of homosexuality and bisexuality. Present day doctrines of the world’s major religions vary vastly generally and by denomination on attitudes toward these sexual orientations.  The following article covers just three religions – but it does make for interesting reading.  

Further reading:

What Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism really think of LGBTI people will surprise you

Gender-fluid deities, gay sex in temples and much more

Erotic Hindu temple art, showing same and opposite sex activity.

Photos by Otgonbayar Ershuu, Michael Hoefner, Jean-Pierre Dalbéra.

Think all religion is anti-LGBTI? Think again.

While many know the arguments for and against equality from Christians, Muslims and Jews, have you considered the world’s other major religions?

In my last article for Gay Star News I was struck by the number of readers who commented that religion was our enemy.

If you think that, much of what follows will surprise you.


Hindu views of LGBTI issues are diverse and different Hindu groups have distinct views.

Overall homosexuality is regarded as one of the possible expressions of human desire. Although some Hindu dharmic texts contain injunctions against homosexuality, a number of Hindu mythic stories have portrayed same-sex experience as natural and joyful. There are even several Hindu temples with carvings that depict both men and women engaging in homosexual sex.

Hindu scriptures contain many surprising examples of diversity in both sex and gender. Many of the deities are androgynous and some even change gender in order to participate in homoerotic behavior.

For instance, medieval texts narrate how the god Ayyappa was born of intercourse between the gods Shiva and Vishnu when the latter temporarily took a female form.

In another story, hero-king Bhagiratha, who brought the sacred river Ganga from heaven to earth, was miraculously born to and raised by two co-widows, who made love together with divine blessing.

A number of 14th-century texts in Sanskrit and Bengali tell this story, including the Krittivasa Ramayana, a devotional text still extremely popular today. These texts explain that Bhagiratha’s name comes from the word bhaga (vulva), because he was born of two vulvas.

This behavior is not limited to gods. Another sacred text, the fourth-century Kamsutra, emphasizes pleasure as the aim of intercourse. It categorizes men who desire other men as a ‘third nature’.

The text goes on to subdivide such men into masculine and feminine types and describes their lives and typical occupations – including flower sellers, masseurs and hairdressers. It may be a stereotype by modern standards but it shows understanding.

The Karma Sutra also includes a detailed description of oral sex between men and refers to long-term unions between male partners.

Some right-wing Hindu groups, active both in India and in the United States, have expressed virulent opposition to homosexuality.

However, several modern Hindu teachers emphasize that all desire, homosexual or heterosexual, is the same, and that aspirants must work through and transcend desire.

For example, Hindu philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti said that homosexuality, like heterosexuality, has been a fact for thousands of years, and that it becomes a problem only because humans focus too much on sex.

When asked about homosexuality, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the international Art of Living movement, said: ‘Every individual has both male and female in them. Sometimes one dominates, sometimes other; it is all fluid.’

Mathematician Shakuntala Devi interviewed Srinivasa Raghavachariar, head priest of the Srirangam temple, in her 1977 book The World of Homosexuals. Raghavachariar told her same-sex partners must have been cross-sex partners in a former life. The gender may change, he said, but the soul retains its attachments; hence love impels them toward one another.

And when, in 2002, Hindu scholar Ruth Vanita interviewed a Shaiva priest who had performed the marriage ceremony for two women, the priest said that having studied Hindu scriptures, he had concluded ‘Marriage is a union of spirits. And the spirit is not male or female.’

So it is clear, there is nothing against homosexuality or same-sex relationships in Hinduism – homophobes who claim otherwise are merely using religion as a shield for their own prejudices.


Sikhism has no specific teachings about homosexuality and
the Sikh holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, does not explicitly mention it.

Views on homosexuality tend not to be a primary concern in Sikh teachings, as the universal goal of a Sikh is to have no hate or animosity to any person, regardless of race, caste, color, creed, gender, or sexuality.

But while the holy scripture, Guru Granth Sahib Ji, does not explicitly mention homosexuality, it does encourage married life time and again. And whenever marriage is mentioned, it is always in reference to a man and a woman.

Sikhs consider Guru Granth Sahib Ji to be the complete guide to life and salvation. As a result, some Sikhs believe that if a marriage between two people of the same sex is not mentioned, it is therefore not right.

The counter argument is that marriage is mentioned as a spiritual unity and since the soul does not have a gender, homosexuality should be permitted.

This argument is not enough though, to secure gay and lesbian marriages in the Sikh temples, the Gurdwara Sahibs. The religion only allows ceremonies which are clearly permitted to be conducted in their places of worship.

Sikhism does not hate LGBTI people or believe that homosexuals are damned to hell. Gurbani, the Sikh gurus, tell us that God is without hatred and animosity. We are all children of God.

Likewise, the temples, Gurdwara Sahibis, are open to all. God loves everyone regardless of one’s thoughts or actions. LGBTIs are free to attend the Gurdwara Sahib and participate in services.

There is still controversy, however.

Joginder Singh Vedanti, of the Akal Takht (the temporal Sikh authority in India), has condemned homosexuality while reminding visiting Sikh-Canadian Members of Parliament (MPs) of their religious duty to oppose same-sex marriage.

In a report published in March 2005, Vedanti said: ‘The basic duty of Sikh MPs in Canada should be to support laws that stop this kind of practice of homosexuality, because there are thousands of Sikhs living in Canada, to ensure that Sikhs do not fall prey to this practice.’

However, the Sikh-Canadian MP voted in support of marriage equality. Many Sikhs believe there is nothing wrong with homosexuality in Sikhism, and reject what is said by some of the preachers.

The greatest argument has to be the fundamental Sikh belief in equality – and here, at least, LGBTIs are on a strong footing.


Is homosexuality forbidden in Buddhism? Is it sexual misconduct? Let’s look at what Gautama Buddha, the founder of the religion says.

Gautama Buddha stated in one of the five precepts that lay-people should refrain from sexual misconduct. He never really elaborated on this point, only to say that a man should not fool around with a woman who is married or betrothed.

He did of course say in the Vinaya, which are the rules for monks and nuns, that they have to take a vow of celibacy, but no such rule was made for lay-people.

Buddha taught the five precepts to steer us away from cause harm to ourselves and others. It should be noted here that the precepts are not commandments, and are five things we should try to refrain from.

If the sexual act is not going to cause harm it should be consensual, affectionate, loving and not breaking any marriage vow or commitment. It should also not be abusive, such as sex with an under-age person or rape, and this includes forcing your partner into having sex.

So I believe in this way a consenting, loving homosexual act isn’t in any way against Buddha’s teachings.

Secondly we should look to Buddha’s last words as he was dying.

At the time the Venerable Anand, his companion, was weeping because Buddha was leaving the body and he said to Buddha: ‘You are leaving and I have not yet become enlightened. What about me? What will happen to me? The world will be absolutely dark for me – you were the light. And now you are going. Have compassion on us.’

Buddha opened his eyes and said ‘Appo deepo bhava’, which means ‘Be a light unto yourself’ – don’t follow anybody.

Buddha asked us to follow the light within us.

So it is clear there is nothing wrong with homosexuality if it is within us and if we do not harm the rights of other people or ourselves.

The celibate Dalai Lama has thrown his considerable moral weight behind equal marriage, condemning homophobia and saying lesbian and gay sex is fine as long as it is consensual.


Jainism has not condemned homosexuality but it shuns all sexuality with the exception of procreation within a marriage.

This translates into no homosexual sex but does that mean it specifically shuns homosexuality? No. It reacts to homosexuality the same way it would pre-marital sex. Even sex within heterosexual marriage is only acceptable due to the need for more people to practice Jainism.

Jainism does not want to promote one sexuality or the other. All sexuality is oppressed, it just so happens that homosexual sex can not be for procreation, married or not, and therefore is not allowed at all.

So no follower from any of these faiths can claim ‘my religion says homosexuality is wrong’. At most, they can say that homosexuality is not formally endorsed by the faith – and even that requires a selective reading of the evidence.

Surely all religious heads have the moral and religious duty to re-think this issue in a modern light.

Book Review: Edward Carpenter: Sex Vol. 1

Edward Carpenter

Reprinted from Gay Star Issue No 15 Spring 1985

It is a great pleasure to see th work of Edward Carpenter back in print.  Largely forgotten since his death in 1929, immensely popular as a radical writer whilst alive, Carpenter’s recent revival rests primarily on his attempt to develop a socialism linking the personal and the political.  The fact that the selected writings are published by Gay Men’s Press indicates the importance of gayness in Carpenter’s life and though.

Carpenter both delights and infuriates.  Alongside passages of genuine insight can be found both dotty and dangerous.  A highly individualistic thinker, he drew upon many of the intellectual currents of late Victorian Britain – marxism, anarchism, orientalism, mysticism, secularism, and developed, not surprisingly, a most idiosyncratic world view.  He displays, for example, subtely and sensitivity in analysing many of the forms in which women are oppressed in modern society and yet can state, in full mystical flight on force and nature, “I think every women in her heart wishes to be ravished”: and adds by way of bizarre qualification “but naturally it must be by the right man”.

On matters specifically gay it is necessary to be aware of the climate in which he wrote to read him properly.  In the wake of the Oscar Wilde ‘scandal’ and in the context of the public morality of the time discussion, of homosexuality was taboo and Carpenter was deserted by his publisher when he attempted to go into print.  He writes on gayness in a very positive but distanced manner – oscillating between enthusiastic praise of homosexuality’s contribution to the past, present and future of humanity and a rather defensive mode (gays are “they” not “we”) asking for toleration.

Carpenter was also confronted with, and influenced by a very poorly developed intellectual on homosexuality, much of it ill-conceived and censorious.  To a modern reader his talk of ‘congenital’ homosexuality, of the ‘intermediate sex’, of feminine souls in male bodies and vice-versa, will probably seem very dated and confused.  Also, lacking adequate data, he tends to make wild generalisations, attributing for example a sensitive nature to male gays and a forceful persona to lesbians.  He displays methodological naivety (like A L Rowse) in his Great Homosexuals in History approach, assuming that homosexuality is an unproblematic and unchanging category for historical research.  Nonetheless, a much more flexible conception ultimately emerges from these rigidities.  Gayness is no longer seen as the attribute of a type of person, but is rather seen as a universal element present, if only in potential form, in all people.  It is also more than a matter of sexuality for the gay dimension is part of a more general potential in humanity for a fully human existence.  IN this respect Carpenter’s gays (whom he terms Urnings or Uranians) are a type of socialist vanguard:

“the Uranian spirit may lead to something like a general enthusiasm of HUmanity, and … the Uranian people may be destined to form the advance guard of the great movement which will one day transform the common life by substituting the bond of personal affection and compassion for the monetary, legal and other external ties which now control and confine society.  Such a part of course we cannot expect the Uranians to palyunless the capacity for their kind of attachment also exists – though in a germinal and undeveloped state – in the breast of mankind at large.  And modern thought and investigation are clearly tending that way – to confirm that it does so exist”.

Noel Grieg provides a useful introduction combining important biographical material and his own critical assessment of Carpenter’s output.  In short this is a most welcome and handosmely produced book and it bodes well for the rest of the volumes in the series.

Review by Vincent Geoghegan




Padraig Reidy: The “gay cake” case bedevils Northern Ireland

Editorial:  We have already reported that this case is currently in court and awaiting judgement; however the reason why I have picked this article up is because members of the Free Presbyterian Church decided to protest outside  Windsor Park before the Finland in a European Championship qualifier which was to be played for the first time on a Sunday.  

As I have stated before, I believe that everyone has a right to hold a ‘peaceful’ protest, however what is disheartening is when you also read that Conservative faith leaders have made religious liberty a rallying cry as gay marriage has spread throughout the states.  

It would appear that religious freedom must be granted no matter whose freedom gets trampled in the meantime.

Please let us know your thoughts?

Gay Cake Controversy

Religious right wants to constrict your freedom




By Padraig Reidy / 2 April, 2015

QueerSpace Belfast / Facebook

Last Sunday, as Northern Ireland’s footballers prepared to play Finland in a European Championship qualifier, protesters gathered outside Windsor Park, the team’s Belfast home.

The assembled were members of the Free Presbyterian Church. They were angered by the fact that Northern Ireland were playing on a Sunday  – the Sabbath  – for the first time ever.

Reverend Raymond Robinson told the Press Association: “Our opposition is to the breaking of observance of the Lord’s day.

“We believe in the Sabbath being kept holy. It seems more and more that the football agenda is being driven by the television companies and not what God says, or what public opinion is.”

Commentator Newton Emerson was, like many, blase about the protest, tweeting “I think these people are harmless enough now to just count towards our wonderful diversity.”

Be that as it may, Christian fundamentalism still plays a huge role in public life in Northern Ireland. While the old demands for Biblical propriety may seem archaic, a new struggle has emerged over what many religious people in the country see as threats to their religious freedom and way of life. And a cake has become the latest flashpoint.

Asher’s bakery is a business run by a family known for its Christian beliefs. It is named after one of the Biblical Twelve Tribes of Israel. Last summer, the bakery was asked to provide a cake by Gareth Lee, a volunteer for LGBT group QueerSpace.

Lee had requested a cake decorated with a picture of Sesame Street’s Bert and Ernie and the slogan “Support Gay Marriage”.

The bakery initially accepted the order, before then informing Lee that it could not fulfil the deal. The case went to Northern Ireland’s Equality Commission, and, between the jigs and reels, is now in the hands of district judge Isobel Brownie, who will rule on Monday whether the Christian bakers engaged in unlawful discrimination by not delivering the pro-same sex marriage cake.

Meanwhile, the “gay cake” case has raised the spectre of a “conscience clause” in equality legislation in Northern Ireland.

The whole situation is, quite frankly, pitiful. One can preach it, validly, both ways: fundamentalist bigots out of touch with the modern world, and inflicting their bigotry on others, or God-fearing, humble folk sticking by their beliefs in the face of an onslaught they didn’t invite.

I can’t help feel sympathetic towards the McArthurs, the family who own the bakery. Karen McArthur told the court that she had initially accepted the order to avoid embarrassment. Colin McArthur said “On that day I didn’t make a clinical decision. I was examining my heart. I was wrestling it over in my heart and in my mind.” He was, apparently, “deeply troubled”. “We discussed how we could stand before God and bake a cake like this promoting a case like this…”

On the other hand, Gareth Lee said he was left feeling like a lesser person after he was told his order would not be fulfilled.

This shouldn’t be down to who was more upset or offended, but then, on what criteria can we judge it? I don’t think it’s necessarily true to say that Lee is entitled to have any message he wants put on any cake by any person. The prosecution, correctly, pointed out that the message was rejected because of the word “gay”. The defence lawyers suggested that a ruling against the McArthurs could lead to a situation where devout Muslims were legally obliged to decorate cakes with images of Muhammad. While “you wouldn’t say that about the Muslims” is a tedious argument, and one deployed increasingly often by Christians, it’s not, in this case, an entirely unreasonable position.

Hardline Christians see homosexuality as a (wrong) choice people make, or a psychological disorder. I recall watching the Reverend Willie McRea, an MP, once, being asked what support he would offer to a constituent who was a victim of homophobia. McRea replied that he would advise the young man not go down that route: basically, the best way to prevent homophobia is to stop being gay.

Meanwhile, Iris Robinson, wife of Democratic Unionist Party leader Peter Robinson, firmly believes that one can be counselled away from homosexuality.

These people are odd, certainly, but they are not fringe characters who can be dismissed as irrelevant to mainstream society in Northern Ireland.

And even if these views were not mainstream, that would not make the fundamentals of the case any different. But it does seem as if the Equality Commission is trying to drag a segment of Northern Irish society kicking and screaming into the secular world.

So who’s right? Who should win? Reader, I am about to break the columnist’s solemn covenant and admit: I don’t fully know. This is not as clear cut a case of discrimination as, say, barring a gay couple from a Bed and Breakfast: if the McArthurs had simply refused to sell a cake to Lee, that would be clear cut. But the cake was loaded, so to speak. Should this tricky case lead to a “conscience clause” in equality legislation, then one can imagine legitimisation of genuinely discriminatory practices.

At the same time, the McArthurs, are wrong, and one’s initial inclination is to side with the gay rights activist against the religious fundamentalists. But that’s the problem with defending freedom of conscience, (and its expression in freedom of speech). Everyone’s conscience is different.

Northern Ireland beat Finland 2-1, by the way. God’s clearly not very troubled by Sunday football.

This column was posted at on April 2, 2015


Further reading:

School apologises over Bible and homosexuality worksheet

BibleGay rights groups have criticised Hunterhouse College in Belfast over the phrasing of questions about homosexuality in a GCSE practice paper.

A Belfast school has apologised after complaints were made about a worksheet on religious views on homosexuality.

Hunterhouse College in Belfast has withdrawn the worksheet after the father of one student complained.

The three questions appeared in a Religious Studies worksheet.

The school said they have an ethos of inclusivity and the worksheet was part of a wider discussion on sexuality on both sides of the debate including extreme opinions.

The questions were in relation to 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 and were set by teaching staff.

They included:

  • What do these verses tell us about homosexuals?
  • Who else is included with homosexuals?
  • What hope is there for all these people?
Bible questionThe BBC has seen a copy of the test which includes the bible passage and questions about homosexuality.

Andrew Gibson, the headmaster of Hunterhouse College, said that the worksheet had been withdrawn and that the school has approached the gay rights charity Rainbow Project NI for advice.

“This is in the introduction to Christian ethics centred around personal and family issues. As part of this, pupils are encouraged to consider a variety of attitudes to homosexuality,” he said.

“The questions were set in house but they were in the context of the CCEA specifications. We have a very strong pastoral care system at the school and deal with issues around sexuality with great sensitivity.”

Mr Gibson added that the school “got it wrong” by allowing the worksheet to be sent home individually and out of context from the rest of the class.

Gavin Boyd of the Rainbow Project said that the school was not to blame as this happens in most schools and comes from a lack of clarity in the syllabus.

“If any LGB child was sitting in that class and asked to list a bunch of people to associate with themselves including drunks and all these licentious people, it’s horrible,” he said.


1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 (as taken from the worksheet)

Surely you know that the wicked will not possess God’s Kingdom.

Do not fool yourselves; people who are immoral or who worship idols or are adulterers or homosexual perverts or who steal or are greedy or are drunkards or who slander others or are thieves – none of these will possess God’s Kingdom.

Some of you were like that. But you have been purified from sin; you have been dedicated to God; you have been put right with God by the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.


“It was ill prepared and ill thought out as it actually could have amounted to an actionable claim of discrimination against the pupil,

“However, I’m confident no malice was intended and I’m impressed that the school have taken steps to quickly rectify the situation.”

The parent who made the complaint has also praised the school’s response to the issue and the steps it has taken since the incident.

Peter Lynas from the Evangelical Alliance said that while the “wording of the question could have been better” it is important to remember that most of the world’s main religions are against homosexuality.

“It is important Christian values are taught in school and schools can sometimes feel pushed into a corner over these issues,” he said.

In a statement, the exam board CCEA said: “We do not produce guidelines for schools on question setting.”

Related Stories

What Does the Northern Ireland Assembly Know on Homosexuality?

A reflection of our times:


The City Hall in its coat of many colours

The City Hall in its coat of many colours


Stormont Northern Ireland

Stormont remains in its ‘vanilla’ coat

The following two motions were put forward to the Assembly in December 2012, both motions highlight just how the assembly still is failing the LGBT part of the community, because both motions have still be acted upon.


  • Lifting the Ban on Homosexual Men Donating Blood

That this Assembly notes that Northern Ireland is now the only region in the United Kingdom where homosexual men are banned from donating blood; further notes the findings of the report on Blood Donor Selection Criteria Review in April 2011; considers it to be unreasonable and intolerant to continue to turn away suitable donors; and calls on the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to lift the ban and to adopt the same safeguards as those that have been implemented across the rest of the United Kingdom.

[Mr J McCallister]
[Mr S Gardiner]


  • Bullying in Schools

That this Assembly acknowledges the negative impacts of bullying in schools; recognises the increase in cyber bullying and the endemic nature of homophobic bullying in schools in Northern Ireland; notes that bullying is linked to an increased risk of isolation, depression, self harm and suicidal ideation among young people; calls on the Minister of Education to acknowledge the particular issue of homophobic bullying; and further calls on the Minister to develop immediately a comprehensive and wide ranging anti-bullying action plan and to begin a programme of work, with schools, to make them safe and welcoming environments for all our young people.

[Mr S Rogers]
[Mrs D Kelly]
[04 September 2012]

Notes from the Northern Ireland Assembly

An article by Eamonn McCann ‘Stormon in Dark Ages over homosexuality’, published  in the Belfast Telegraph 18 July 2013,  would seem to give further evidence towards this in a small way, but what was more enlightening was the off-the-cuff comment by the young woman at the desk of the British Museum on being told that there was little represenation of the Celts or the Ulsters Scots in the British Museum’s sumptuous collection of gay artifacts from civilisations across the globe and down the ages – “Well, they’ve always been a bit odd over there, haven’t they?”

In July 2011, Dolores Kelly said ‘…members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community must “push” to make their voice heard.

“I think they need to push hard and hold to account their political representatives,” Ms Kelly said.

“Particularly the leader of the biggest party here in the north which is of course the DUP and I think they have to be challenged on all fronts.”

Politics in Northern Ireland is not just about religion, it is about bias and ignorance on many fronts,  The LGBT community needs to organise itself and to communicate with and pursue its local and national representatives into supporting the needs of our community.  (UTV Report)


Just after I wrote this piece, I was forwarded an notification on the

UN Human Rights Office Launches Unprecedented Global Campaign for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality

I am attaching a copy of the document for information and look forward to our community being actively involved in delivering ‘Equality for the LGBT Community’

UN Human Rights Office Launches Unprecedented Global Campaign for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality

human rights defenderUnited Nations HUman Rights - Office of the High Commissioner