Comment: Homophobia in the Democratic Unionist Party

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Writing for, Gary Spedding reflects on homophobia in Northern Ireland, and the attitude of the Democratic Unionist Party towards gay rights.

Democratic Unionist Party MP Ian Paisley Jr’s appearance on Question Time this week has only further exposed his intolerant and frankly laughable views when challenged on Question Time about a 2007 interview where he said that he was “repulsed” by gays and lesbians. 

Many around the UK will have found this eye opener particularly amusing as Paisley blossomed forth his exceptionally negative views toward the gay community and opposition to LGBT rights before the entire nation. His outlandish statements may draw laughter; however there remains a serious reality of institutionalised discrimination faced by most gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people here in Northern Ireland.

Caution must be aired for those too quick to chuckle at the DUP position. Laughter often glosses over the very real damage that homophobic rhetoric can do within our communities and the growing list of anti-gay proclamations coming from the DUP is certainly not something to be laughed about.

Starting with the infamous 1982 ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy,’ campaign there has been a plethora of very public displays of intolerance, even outright hatred directed against the LGBT community in Northern Ireland.

Shockingly it has now been several years since the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) promised Northern Ireland a Sexual Orientation Strategy. Still we only have a draft strategy published in 2006 that leaves much to be desired.

The lack of progress on bringing forward a robust strategy on sexual orientation reveals at best a willingness to overlook LGBT issues and worst an agenda of actively enabling and legitimising homophobic hate crime.

On marriage equality, Mr Paisley has demonstrated how threatened he and his party are when he claimed the number of heterosexual couples marrying had declined in Spain and Portugal because they had legalised same-sex marriage. This attempt to frighten the heterosexual population of Northern Ireland into rejecting equality is utterly absurd and his recent Question Time escapade reveals that he is a fan of perpetuating dangerous societal constructs when he told Peter Tatchell that he [Peter] could get married today, just not to a man.

Rhetoric coming from DUP politicians seems to have also expanded beyond repetitive statements that ‘marriage should be between a man and a woman’ to include ‘marriage is about children’. This is deeply troubling as it underpins that ‘traditional values’ includes the misogynist view that women are little more than mobile incubators to be used by men. Another aspect follows the line of Iris Robinson – wife to First Minister Peter Robison, who claimed that “there can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children.”

By enforcing the idea marriage has a main purpose of procreation the DUP removes the words ‘loving commitment’ from our discourse, this I’m sure is deeply offensive to heterosexual couples who cannot biologically have children of their own and to other couples that simply choose not to have children.

At the end of the day, many people in Northern Ireland – particularly young people – will sit at home or in their places of work and classrooms listening, watching and reading the exclusionist language spewing from the direction of the DUP and a number of other politicians. These young people will assuredly be thinking to themselves as a result that they ‘aren’t normal’ or believe they have no place in society because what they are is ‘sinful’. This kind of hate has long-lasting effects and must stop immediately; especially considering Northern Ireland is place where mental health provision for the LGBT sector is already acknowledged to be far from adequate.

Ultimately in their contempt for the LGBT community, the actions of the DUP grimly remind us that almost 1.8 million people are left 30 years behind the rest of the United Kingdom, stuck under what is essentially a theocratic regime enforced with impunity specifically to deny basic rights, equality, freedom and normalisation in Northern Ireland.

As with all comment pieces the views expressed do not necessary reflect those of