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Activists to picket gay 'leper' conference

Activists plan protest in Belfast, Northern Ireland, against Christian 'gay cure' group
Protesters picket a Core Issues Trust conferece last June

Activists in Northern Ireland are planning to picket a Christian group's conference which calls gay men and women 'lepers'.

Around 200 people are expected to gather outside Belfast's Orangefield Presbyterian Church on Friday and Saturday to protest against a conference called The Lepers Among Us.

The event will be run by the Core Issues Trust, a non-profit Christian group which advocates so-called 'reparative therapy', claiming it can help gay people become straight.

Gavin Boyd, education equality officer from protest organizers The Rainbow Project, says the title of the conference is 'disgraceful and dehumanizing'.

'The word leper conjures up images of untouchables which you would see back in biblical times,' he told Gay Star News.

Campaigners also object to reparative therapy, which they claim can be harmful to people who go through it.

He added: 'They bring speakers from America to really promote this kind of discredited hokum to very vulnerable people, particularly men, who are struggling with their sexuality.'

The Rainbow Project have also launched a petition, already garnering more than 400 signatures, calling for an investigation into Core Issues Trusts' charitable status.

Last June, more than 50 supporters of Northern Ireland's gay community protested outside a similar conference run by Core Issues which claimed to offer a 'gay cure'.

In an official statement sent to The Belfast Telegraph, the trust said this week's event was aimed at exploring the role of evangelical and orthodox churches in supporting men and women with 'unwanted same sex attractions'.

'Core Issues does not offer so-called reparative or conversion therapy but does offer support to individuals conflicted in religious and sexual identity, within a specific ethical framework,' it added.

'It reserves the right to offer alternative orthodox views to those who choose to prioritise a religious identity over their sexual identity.'

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