Tory peer in Lords attempt to secure Northern Ireland gay pardons – Belfast Newsletter

Jeff-Dudgeon-MBE-gay pardons legislation

Jeff Dudgeon’s MBE comments re challenges to gay pardons legislation

A response from Jeff Dudgeon, in respect of the claim that Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 makes this problematic.

‘This, in my view, is an absolute  ridiculous argument. I wrote the amendments in such a way that they do not relate to the “sexual orientation” of a person convicted or cautioned. Both the pardons and the disregard scheme will be available to any “person” who has been convicted or cautioned. In respect of the main offences involved, that means: any person who has been convicted or cautioned for the offence of buggery (involving either opposite-sex or same-sex sexual acts); any person convicted or cautioned for the offence of gross indecency (this can only be same-sex acts because the offence only related to men). The term “gay pardons” is therefore misleading because the pardons will extend to any “person” (man or woman) falling within the ambit of the old law. There is no “discrimination” here!’

As you can see this proposed amendment is ‘fair to all’, and we believe that it should be passed…

The Lords and Gay Pardons LegisltionAn attempt to pardon men convicted in Northern Ireland before homosexuality was decriminalised has been launched in the House of Lords – but a QC has said that the proposal could be unlawful under equality law.

Source: Tory peer in Lords attempt to secure Northern Ireland gay pardons – Belfast Newsletter

Equality in Marriage Blocked Again

Government is put in place to govern, that we can all accept.  However it is supposedly done on the basis of consent and democracy.  Government is supposed to listen to the electorate (not just at ballot and election time) but throughout the duration of its time in office!  In consequence, I would draw First Minister Arlene Foster’s attention to the Mori poll published in the Belfast Telegraph in June of this year,  which shows that 70% of the electorate agrees with gay marriage. (Survey shows 70% support for same-sex marriages in Northern Ireland) – this poll clearly  indicates that the electorate has moved on, and that gay marriage is acceptable.  How much longer will the DUP continue to bury not just its head, but its whole body in the sand about what is a right – this is about equality and fairness.  Dave McFarlane, Community JournalistEquality for all

Attempts to introduce same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland are set to be thwarted for at least another five years after the Democratic Unionists insisted they would continue to block a

Source: First Minister Arlene Foster vows to continue blocking attempts to introduce same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland –

Is religion ever going to give LGBT Students a break?

Editorial:  I have reprinted this article from the Advocate as it shows why keeping schools separate from religion is a necessity, and why the government in Northern Ireland should take heed and remove the various religious inputs that they keep ensuring.  I accept that religion and belief is a right for everyone that wishes to follow one, but not at the expense of other peoples (and in this case LGBT students) well being and safety!



There has been a spike in requests for waivers from compliance with federal nondiscrimination requirements.


With the expansion of LGBT rights, there has been a spike in the number of religiously affiliated colleges and universities seeking exemptions from federal antidiscrimination laws.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 forbids sex discrimination at any educational institution that receives federal funding, which most do in some form, be it research grants or student financial aid. But it allows any school “controlled by a religious organization” to apply for a waiver from the nondiscrimination requirement if complying with Title IX “would not be consistent with the religious tenets of such organization.”

“These ‘right-to-discriminate’ waivers were relatively rare until the last year,” reports The Column, a Minnesota-based nonprofit LGBT news site, with “a handful” of schools seeking them to avoid putting women in leadership positions. But in 2014, the U.S. Department of Education held that Title IX’s ban on sex discrimination also banned discrimination against transgender and gender-nonconforming people, leading many more schools to apply for waivers. Also, the spread of marriage equality, now nationwide after June’s Supreme Court ruling, has conservative institutions worried they would be required to treat married same-sex couples the same as opposite-sex ones — in access to student housing, for instance.

In the past 18 months, the Department of Education has granted 27 colleges and universities waivers from Title IX compliance, The Column reports. The schools are located throughout the nation, but the majority are in the South and West. Their combined enrollment exceeds 80,000, and in 2014 they received nearly $130 million in federal research grants and student aid. As of August of this year, another nine such waivers were pending.

The schools that have been granted the exemptions include Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina, Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, Judson College in Alabama, East Texas Baptist University, Oklahoma Christian University, Spring Arbor University in Michigan, and Simpson University in California. Those with waivers pending include Biola University in California, Colorado Christian University, Ohio Christian University, and Multnomah University in Portland.

Some schools have sought the waivers so they could bar or expel transgender students, and some have targeted lesbian, gay, and bisexual students and staff as well, reports the site, which obtained the data through a Freedom of Information Act request. Many of them have used a sample policy by the Christian Legal Society.

“The trend of religiously affiliated, but publicly financed, colleges receiving exemptions from the U.S. Department of Education in order to discriminate against LGBTQ students and employees is disturbing,” attorney Paul Southwick, who has represented students in discrimination suits, told The Column. “While we are seeing increased protections for transgender, intersex, and LGB students through Title IX, we are also seeing the protections of Title IX gutted at the very institutions where students need those protections the most.”

This is recourse, however, Southwick said. He suggested that students or staff who have experienced discrimination file an internal appeal, with the help of a lawyer if possible. “Additionally, students should file a Title IX complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights,” he said. “This is important and should always be done. Even if their college has a religious exemption from Title IX, the exemption may not apply or it may not stick after being challenged.

Gay marriage is a matter for Stormont





16:52Tuesday 01 December 2015

Same Sex MarriageSame-sex marriage in Northern Ireland is for Stormont to decide on, the Attorney General told a court today.

John Larkin QC described it as an issue of “pure social policy” that should be left with the devolved administration.

His assessment came in proceedings brought by a gay couple whose marriage has no legal recognition in their native Northern Ireland.

The two men claim that being limited to civil partnership status within the region amounts to unlawful discrimination.

They are seeking a landmark declaration that their marriage remains fully constituted throughout the UK.

Granted anonymity in the case, the petitioner ‘X’ and his husband wed in London last year.

But under current laws they can only be classified as civil partners in Northern Ireland.

Legislation passed in the rest of the the UK and the Irish Republic allows same-sex couples to marry.
Last month Stormont voted in favour of the same change in law for the first time.

However, the Democratic Unionists blocked it by deploying a mechanism requiring the proposal to achieve a cross-community majority.

The petition, backed by gay rights group The Rainbow Project, has been taken against the Northern Ireland Assembly and the UK Government.

In first case of its kind counsel for X and his husband claimed their marriage has been “demeaned, devalued and undermined” by the situation.
The ban breaches rights to privacy and family life, religious freedom and entitlement to marry under the European Convention on Human Rights, it was contended.

X and his husband were able to wed in England following the introduction of the Marriage (Same-Sex Couples) Act 2013.

As the case resumed at the High Court today, Mr Justice O’Hara asked if the same same legal position should apply throughout the UK.

The Attorney General replied: “No, it’s a matter of pure social policy … being a transferred matter it’s for the devolved administration and the Executive.”

Mr Larkin insisted that the 2013 Act was clear, irrespective of how long a couple spend married in the rest of the UK.
He added: “It doesn’t matter, this is a general provision under which every same-sex marriage is for the purpose of the law in Northern Ireland treated as a civil partnership.”

The case continues.

Read more:

New research says sex education ignores gay and lesbian relationships

New research from Birmingham City and Sheffield Hallam universities say teachers always depict young people as straight.

Research released this week, suggests that sex education lessons in schools ignore gay, lesbian and bisexual relationships and in make some students feel “problematic”.

According to the Independent, one teacher who had been teaching sex and relationships lessons for eight years, told researchers: “In terms of the promotion of homosexuality and lesbianism, we don’t really get into all that.

“If they openly want to discuss homosexuality, I don’t think the classroom is the best way to do it.  It’s something that we say if you have concerns about we have the drop-in clinic with the school nurse.”

Another teacher commented that she would use “some really horrible quotations” to show how some people refer to gays and lesbians, explaining: “We look at them and we talk about why people might say things like that.” The researchers point out that this approach could single out young gay, bisexual and lesbian students, making them think they are “problematic”.

The same teacher added: “In early puberty… You can feel a very strong attraction to the same sex as well as the opposite sex.  It doesn’t mean that you are lesbian or whatever.”

Lead researcher Keeley Abbott said: “Our findings highlight a lack of understanding among teachers around what constitutes real inclusivity within the context of sex and relationships education.

“Lesbian, gay and bisexual students could be left vulnerable here with a lack of any sex education that is relevant to them.”

Other researchers from the project suggest that teachers should be using more general language like ‘partner’ so young LGB students aren’t excluded.

Last month, the Chair of the Education Select Committee, Neil Carmichael, called for inclusive sex education in schools. Writing for PinkNews he said: “We recommended that Personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education should be made compulsory in all schools and that compulsory guidance for schools should be fully updated, to ensure that PSHE is appropriately inclusive of information about same-sex relationships.”


Northern Ireland’s gay blood ban is doing basically nothing to ‘protect’ blood supply



Northern Ireland is making no significant difference to the safety of its blood supply by permanently banning gay men.


Northern Ireland’s blood ban is doing nothing, a court heard England, Scotland and Wales, men who have sex with men can give blood if they abstain from sex for 12 months – whereas in Northern Ireland they are banned for life.

Successive Health Ministers in Northern Ireland have refused to lift the permanent ban on gay men donating blood in Northern Ireland, fighting a costly legal battle despite the Health department admitting to having “no evidence” whatsoever to continue the ban.

Edwin-Poots-social-media-imageAmid a legal challenge to the rule, the Court of Appeal this week heard that former Health Minister Edwin Poots insisted on keeping the rule in place because he was scared of ‘contamination’, despite increased testing and the weight of scientific evidence.

It’s actually one every 15,625 years, by our maths, so we’re due a mix-up by the year 17,640… and we’re hoping HIV will be eradicated long before then

Adding that the DUP minister had defied professional advice on the issue, Mr Scoffield said: “The minister’s own professional adviser was supporting the change, the chief medical officer was supporting the change.”

Current Health Minister Simon Hamilton, who vowed to be guided by science on the issue, has so far ducked calls to end the ban.

Almost two thirds of NI people 'comfortable with same-sex marriage', survey suggests


Gay blood donation: Thirty men turned down over sex ban





Whole Blood

The NIBTS has stopped 30 men from donating blood at their clinics since 2011 after they said they had sexual contact with other men


Thirty men have been stopped from donating blood at clinics in Northern Ireland because they have had sexual contact with another man, a BBC investigation has found.

Elsewhere in the UK, there is a one-year deferral period for men who have had sex with men (MSM) to donate.

Northern Ireland has an outright ban.

But a judge ruled that former health minister Edwin Poots did not have the power to retain that ban. His ruling will be appealed in court later.

In the Northern Ireland Appeal Court on Monday, the current on-off health minister, the Democratic Unionist Party’s (DUP) Simon Hamilton, is appealing the judgement, alongside Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

They shall be asking who is in charge of blood policy and whether or not this is a devolved issue. The appeal is expected to last four days.


Following a Freedom of Information request, BBC News NI has seen emails sent between Northern Ireland’s Department of Health and the Northern Ireland Blood Transfusion Service (NIBTS), which is responsible for the collection, testing and distribution of blood.

The NIBTS also said it had stopped 30 men from donating blood at their clinics since 2011 after they informed staff that they had sexual contact with other men.

The BBC asked the NIBTS how confident it would be that its blood is screened correctly and that it would be safe for MSM to donate after the one-year deferral period.

It said: “All blood donations are subjected to the testing regimes required by the Blood Safety and Quality Regulations 2005.

“As such, NIBTS is confident that all blood samples are screened correctly.”


The BBC has also seen instructions sent to the NIBTS from Dr Elizabeth Mitchell, the deputy chief medical officer, instructing the organisation how to respond if approached by the media about the ban remaining in place.

Dr Kieran Morris, the former chief executive of the NIBTS, replied showing some concern about the process and how he would answer questions from his own staff.

“As chief executive officer and accountable officer for the NIBTS special agency service, I require from the Department of Health a written direction, giving me a clear line as to how we manage and control the situation,” he said.

“There is no doubt in my mind that referring all matters to the Department of Health press office will not be sustainable for more than a few days.”

Edwin PootsImage copyrightPAcemaker
Image captionEdwin Poots, the former health minister, said he kept the ban on the basis of ensuring public safety

A BBC investigation earlier this year found the Department of Health does not have any medical evidence of its own to support a permanent ban on gay men donating blood.

The ban was put in place across the UK during the Aids crisis of the 1980s, but was lifted in England, Scotland and Wales in November 2011.


New rules were introduced that allowed blood donations from men whose last sexual contact with another man was more than a year earlier.

But Northern Ireland did not follow suit.

A gay man, granted anonymity due to his perceived vulnerability, launched a judicial review challenge over then health minister Edwin Poots’s decision not to adopt the same policy on this side of the Irish Sea.

A judge ruled that Mr Poots’ decision was “irrational” and “infected with apparent bias”.

Mr Poots said he had kept the ban on the basis of ensuring public safety.

In April, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that a lifetime ban may be justified in member states if no effective detection techniques exist within the country.


The ECJ said countries must establish if such donors were at high risk of acquiring infectious diseases like HIV.

Mr Hamilton said he would study the ruling.

A number of issues will be looked at in the Court of Appeal, including whether blood policy should be a devolved matter.

The appeal is expected to last for four days.

The NIBTS did not respond to the BBC to give an additional comment.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “It would not be appropriate at this stage to comment on matters that are before the courts.”

Gay marriage, abortion, euthanasia: 3 charts that show what Catholics and Protestants really think about the moral issues dividing Christianity

Belfast Telegraph logoPUBLISHED31/08/2015

Catholics more liberal towards gay marriage than Protestants

Catholics more liberal towards gay marriage than Protestants

Catholics have a more liberal attitude towards gay marriage than Protestants – but are more conservative when it comes to euthanasia and abortion, a survey suggests.

YouGov questioned 863 Catholics and 1,707 Protestants in Great Britain – who strongly agreed with the statement “my faith is important to me” – on the three issues.

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The results show that both groups are less accepting on the issues than the public as a whole.

Both same-sex marriage and euthanasia have been widely discussed within sections of the two churches recently.

Pope Francis is widely perceived to be a liberal influence on the Catholic Church – in 2013, when asked if there was ‘gay lobby’ in the Vatican, he replied: “If someone is gay and is searching for the Lord and has good will, then who am I to judge him?”

Last year meanwhile, the Church of England opposed legislation to legalise gay marriage in the UK.

More Catholics support gay marriage than Protestants

Source: YouGov Get the data

Same-sex marriage was made legal in the UK in March 2014, with the exception of Northern Ireland.

It remains illegal for the Church of England to carry out same-sex marriages.

Previous YouGov research found 38 per cent of the Church of England clergy said same-sex marriage was right while the majority, 51 per cent, said it was wrong.

Protestants are more likely than Catholics to support euthanasia

Source: YouGov Get the data

Both groups remain more conservative than the general population on voluntary euthanasia.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has previously said that it is a “profoundly Christian and moral thing” to allow people to “end their lives with dignity”.

An assisted dying bill is expected to be debated in Parliament on 11 September.

Former Crown Prosecution Service chief Sir Keir Starmer has said it is time for politicians to legalise assisted dying.

Catholics want more restrictions on abortion laws

Source: YouGov Get the data

Both Protestants and Catholics are more opposed to abortion than the general population.

While abortion is legal in Britain, it is illegal in Northern Ireland, where it remains a contentious issue.

Last month, a United Nations committee said Northern Ireland’s abortion laws were putting women’s lives at risk.

The report concluded by calling upon Northern Ireland’s authorities to amend the country’s laws on abortion “with a view to providing for additional exceptions to the legal ban on abortion, including in cases of rape, incest, and fata foetal abnormality”.


Full Story at Belfast Telegraph

Minister's vow on gay blood ban

Belfast Telegraph


Simon Hamilton (right) and Edwin Poots (left) have been at the centre of controversy over the issue of blood donations
Simon Hamilton (right) and Edwin Poots (left) have been at the centre of controversy over the issue of blood donations

Northern Ireland’s new health minister has said he will be guided by science and patient safety when deciding whether to lift the ban on blood donations from gay men.

The prohibition was lifted in England, Scotland and Wales in 2011 and replaced with rules allowing them to donate a year after their last sexual encounter with another man.

Former DUP health minister Edwin Poots kept the lifetime deferral in operation in Northern Ireland, citing “blood safety” issues.

Current minister Simon Hamilton said: “I will be guided by the science and medical evidence.

“There is an emerging body of evidence…I will monitor that, I will examine it, I will look at it carefully.”

He added: “This is a matter of patient safety. We must have an assurance.”

Mr Poots lost a judicial challenge to his ban and inferred he would not get a fair hearing from a court should he appeal against the decision.

Responsibility rests with the UK Health Secretary and an appeal has been taken to try establish authority in Northern Ireland, Mr Hamilton said.

In 2013 a judge said Stormont’s health minister did not have the power to keep an “irrational” lifetime ban on gay men giving blood in Northern Ireland.

The High Court also found that Mr Poots had breached the ministerial code by failing to take the issue before the Stormont Executive.

The ex-minister maintained the ban in Northern Ireland on the basis of ensuring public safety. But a gay man granted anonymity due to his perceived vulnerability launched a judicial review challenge to Mr Poots’ position.

The judge heard claims that the minister had displayed apparent bias that went beyond religious beliefs and into the realms of prejudice.

Sinn Fein Stormont assembly member Caitriona Ruane told Mr Hamilton it was an equality issue.

“I was glad to hear him say, however, that he will be guided by science and medical evidence, which is to be welcomed given the fact that his two predecessors based their stance on faith.

“The minister now needs to stand up and signal his intent to overturn this discriminatory ban.”