UPDATED: 22 December 2014
Petition still active – Click HERE to sign
A Christian printer who turned down a contract for a gay magazine has backed DUP plans for a conscience clause in Northern Ireland after revealing he refused to print a gay magazine in 2013.
Printer Nick Williamson of Blufire media in Portadown who incorrectly labelled a gay magazine “sexually explicit” in order to justify his refusal to do work with a gay magazine has stepped into the Conscience Clause debate.
Williamson refused to print a pride edition of Mygayzine magazine stating that to work with the LGBT community stating “To work alongside (even printing for) the LGBT [community] would be in contradiction to my own faith and so I will have to let this quote slide.”
From this statement his company refuses to work alongside people from the LGBT community under any circumstances as it somehow affects his faith. This type of discrimination is what the conscience clause would permit and promote.
Mr Williamson told The Christian Institute website: “I think first of all that it is tragic that it has come to this in the law in our land that we have to try and get something like this passed.
“But from a point of view of my faith, obviously I think it is a good thing. However, I don’t think it has to be something that is only used within the boundaries of faith.”
The case was referred to the Equality Commission but was not followed up by the magazine editor due to ill health.
A DUP assembly member has begun an attempt to introduce a “conscience clause” into equality law in Northern Ireland, following legal action taken against a homophobic Christian-owned bakery.
The Equality Commission has brought a civil case against Ashers Baking Company after it refused to bake a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan.
In July, it emerged they had received an order for a cake with the slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’ and a picture of the Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie.
The manager of the business, Daniel McArthur, said they had to contact the customer to decline the request because it went against their Christian beliefs about marriage. Last month (November 2013), the owner was instructed by the Equality Commission to pay compensation or face court action. In a letter, the company was told that if it did not offer compensation within seven days it would face litigation.
Ashers was founded in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, in 1992. The Christian directors oversee six shops in Northern Ireland and employ around 60 people. The company was named after a verse from the Bible, which refers to ‘Bread from Asher’.
Paul Givan’s Private Members Bill claims to create a legal exemption on grounds of strongly held religious beliefs stating that the case had generated “huge public interest.”
However Sinn Fein vowed to torpedo this amendment claiming it is legalising discrimination in Northern Ireland. A Sinn Fein spokesman said it was “opposed to any dilution of equality legislation”, and accused the DUP of trying to “undermine equality and hard-won equality legislation”.
The Equality Commission, which has taken the case against the business on behalf of the customer whose order was declined, has alleged the bakery’s stance was in breach of legislation.
Sinn Fein’s opposition to the proposed Bill, which is expected to be brought before the Assembly next year, means it is unlikely to be passed.
Mr Givan’s proposed amendment to the law would mean that a Catholic adoption agency could refuse to place a child with a same-sex couple, but an evangelical green grocer couldn’t refuse to sell an apple to a gay man.
He clarified that the difference was a service or act that could be seen as endorsing a same-sex sexual relationship. “The selling of apples would not involve the evangelical grocer being required to endorse, promote or facilitate a same-sex sexual relationship in violation of his/her faith identity so there is no conflict,” he said. However, a Catholic adoption agency “would not be required by law to choose between either being willing to act in violation of their faith by placing a child with a same-sex couple, thereby endorsing a same-sex union and same-sex parenting, or ceasing operations”.
Yesterday, high profile comedian, presenter and writer Stephen Fry took to Twitter to speak out against a bid to introduce this conscience clause to Northern Ireland equality legislation. Fry asked his eight million Twitter followers to sign an online petition against the conscience clause.
Please sign this: once again the religious right twisting truth to present themselves as victims. Sick.
Following his tweets he faced a backlash from supporters of the bill but stood strong in his beliefs and showed no sign of backing out of the debate. “.@tommydevlin1974 @News_Letter To be “slammed” by the bigots of the DUP is to be bathed in light and kissed by angels. I am content.”
The Gay Say believes that the fact we are involved in debating the introduction of such a discriminatory bill is disgusting. Churches, mosques or synagogues are the proper places for people to practise or discuss their religious convictions, and that is where such debates should remain.