Over 148,000 sign petition against anti-gay Northern Ireland conscience clause bill

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More than 148,000 people have signed a petition against a Northern Ireland DUP-backed “conscience clause” bill that would permit anti-gay discrimination.

The bill was drawn up by DUP MLA Paul Givan, after a Christian-run bakery faced legal action for refusing to bake a cake with a pro-equal marriage slogan.

Yesterday, the Catholic Church in Northern Ireland voiced cautious support for the bill.

Sinn Fein and the SDLP have said they will block the bill when it comes before the Assembly.

American activist group All Out launched a new online petition against the bill on Monday.

In just 48 hours the petition had been signed by more than 100,000 people around the world including the US and Australia.

The Belfast Telegraph reports around 30,000 of the signatures are from people in Northern Ireland.

All Out said on its website in a message to Mr Givan and the DUP: “Northern Ireland’s proposed anti-gay amendment would make it legal to deny service to lesbian, gay, and bi people. Restaurants, hotels, and many other businesses could refuse to serve people just because of who they love.

“Please remove this amendment from consideration. Throw it out and send a strong message that Northern Ireland stands for equality.”

A public consultation on the bill closes on Friday.

Yesterday, Mr Givan said: “Christians do not feel there is space being made for their religious beliefs”.

“The issue at stake is when you’re asked to produce a particular service,” he said.

“It’s about the message you’re being asked to endorse, not the messenger who’s asking for it. Say someone comes in and asks for a cake saying ‘I support gay marriage’ – that’s a direct form of communication you’re asking this Christian-owned company to produce and they don’t want to be forced to do that.

“I don’t think that’s unreasonable, I think that’s tolerant and if we live in a pluralist, liberal society we need to make space for difference.”