A Northern Ireland legislator is seeking to add a ‘conscience clause’ to equality laws after a Christian bakery was sued for refusing to make a gay marriage cake.
Paul Givan yesterday (8 December) introduced his Freedom of Conscience Bill to the legislative assembly that would allow those with strongly held religious beliefs to deny access to goods, facilities and services on the grounds of sexual orientation.
‘The dilemma facing people of faith is the choice of violating their sincerely held beliefs or going out of business,’ he told the legislature.
The Democratic Unionist said his private member’s bill was necessary after the Equality Commission took legal action against Ashers Bakery in Belfast.
The Christian bakery refused to make a cake decorated a Bert and Ernie cake for a gay marriage event.
Givan said the watchdog’s actions had ‘created a hierarchy of rights where all minorities are not to be treated equally.’
‘Gay rights, and the right to have those rights endorsed and promoted by everyone, is more important than the rights of Christians to live according to their conscience,’ he said.
The Rainbow Project, Northern Ireland’s largest LGBTI group, expressed disappointment at Givan’s ‘campaign to legalize discrimination against LGB people.’
‘The fact that this proposed legislation will only be used to discriminate against LGB people shows that it is not motivated by a desire to protect those of religious belief but by a hostility to LGB people and their hard-won rights,’ said director Jack O’Doherty in a statement.
‘This is just updating "No dogs, No blacks, No Irish" to include "No gays."’