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The Equality Act

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William Crawley | 14:13 UK time, Wednesday, 13 December 2006

On Monday morning, the Transitional Assembly debated The Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006, which come into effect on Jan 1, 2007, and will outlaw discrimination in goods and services on the basis of a person's sexual orientation. Jeffrey Donaldson's motion was as follows:

That this Assembly notes that the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 have been laid in Westminster in advance of the equivalent regulations for the rest of the United Kingdom and calls upon the Government to withdraw these regulations and leave this issue to be determined by the Northern Ireland Assembly upon restoration.

When the Assembly voted, it was divided equally (39-39) and the motion was not carried. The official record of the debate is here; and the following are the names of those who voted and how they voted:

Billy Armstrong, Norah Beare, Roy Beggs, Billy Bell, Paul Berry, Esmond Birnie, Thomas Buchanan, Gregory Campbell, Wilson Clyde, Robert Coulter, Leslie Cree, George Dawson, Diane Dodds, Nigel Dodds, Jeffrey Donaldson, Reg Empey, George Ennis, Arlene Foster, Samuel Gardiner, Paul Girvan, William Hay, David Hilditch, Danny Kennedy, Nelson McCausland, William McCrea, David McNarry, Stephen Moutray, Dermot Nesbitt, Robin Newton, Ian Paisley Jnr, Ian R K Paisley, Edwin Poots, George Robinson, Peter Robinson, Jim Shannon, David Simpson, Mervyn Storey, Peter Weir, Jim Wilson.

Gerry Adams, Alex Attwood, Dominic Bradley, Mary Bradley, Francis Brolly, Willie Clarke, John Dallat, Pat Doherty, David Ervine, Sean Farren, David Ford, Tommy Gallagher, Carmel Hanna, Davy Hyland, Dolores Kelly, Gerry Kelly, Patricia Lewsley, Naomi Long, Alban Maginness, Alex Maskey, Fra McCann, Kieran McCarthy, Raymond McCartney, Alasdair McDonnell, Barry McElduff, Philip McGuigan, Mitchel McLaughlin, Eugene McMenamin, Francie Molloy, Conor Murphy, John O’Dowd, Pat O’Rawe, Tom O’Reilly, Pat Ramsey, Sue Ramsey, Margaret Ritchie, Caitriona Ruane, Kathy Stanton. Vote on vacancy in Membership [Michael Ferguson (deceased)]: Gerry Adams.

You'll notice that Paul Berry voted in support of Jeffrey Donaldson's motion. The voting is mostly along unionist-nationalist lines; David Ervine of the PUP voted against the motion and made a speech in favour of the new regulations; and Alliance members also voted against the motion, with their leader, David Ford, also speaking in the debate.


  • 1.
  • At 02:39 AM on 14 Dec 2006,
  • gareth greer wrote:

So PAUL BERRY voted against giving gay people legal protection from discrimination? Let it never be said again that he doesn't have a voting record on gay rights.

  • 2.
  • At 08:24 AM on 14 Dec 2006,
  • Gee Dubyah wrote:

are we surprised at this?

  • 3.
  • At 10:25 AM on 15 Dec 2006,
  • Drew Smyth wrote:

Its times like this I'm GLAD that we don't have a devolved Assembly and that important issues like this can be left to "grown-up" Politicians in Westminster.

Can we play a (private obviously for ligigation reasons) game of spot the homosexual voting AGAINST the Equality Legislation, there are two on that list that I'm aware of, any advance on two?

  • 4.
  • At 03:11 PM on 15 Dec 2006,
  • Voluntary Simpleton wrote:

The apparent nationalist/unionist divide on this issue raises some interesting questions.

Are nationalists (I am wary of saying Catholics) generally more tolerant when it comes to personal morality than unionists (equally wary of saying protestants)?

Is there some other politicking going on that puts the unionists and nationalists at odds on this?

I wonder what would the neighbours (in Europe, North America etc.)would say about such moral backwardness on behalf of some of our leading statesmen?

  • 5.
  • At 08:16 PM on 15 Dec 2006,
  • Stephen G wrote:

Firstly, the motion was not about whether these regs should be thrown out, but about who should make the decisions - our elected assembly or people we didn't actually vote for.

Secondly, let me throw a cat amongst the pigeons and state my disagreement with such regulations. I'm not anti-gay. I'm not a fundamentalist Christian. I oppose these regulations because I'm a libertarian and these regulations are another attempt by government to interfere in the affairs of a business and private individuals. If I run a hotel then it's up to me who I provide rooms for. If I choose to discriminate against gay people, right-handed people, white people, people with curly pubes then that's my own business - not that of anyone else. It's MY business and I - not YOU - will make decisions about it.


  • 6.
  • At 09:15 PM on 15 Dec 2006,
  • Voluntary Simpleton wrote:

I'd agree with you SG if we were talking about a private residence but a public business should not discriminate about who it sells it services to if they are willing to pay the going rate and are not doing anything illegal on the premises.

For example what if a bus company refused to let blacks ride on their buses or a restaurant refused to serve Jews. Following your logic, even something like apartheid would be condonable since no-one could force those with the power and the money to do anything they didn't want to do with their money and property.

In your world view the poorest, the weakest and most marginalised would most likely not get a fair deal.

Richard Dawkins was asked on last week's show if one could expand evolutionism into the moral realm. Dawkins replied that the principles of evolution applied to morality would result in a kind of ultra-thatcherism - I think your brand of libertarianism might fit the bill. What do you think?

  • 7.
  • At 11:16 PM on 15 Dec 2006,
  • b.g. wrote:

voluntary simpleton wrote
"and are not doing anything illegal on the premises."

for the christian bed and breakfast owner, the question of letting a shared room to a heterosexual unmarried couple or a homosexual couple raises this question.

while it is not against the law of the land, it is against God's law, and that is why christians wish to protect the right to refuse on grounds of conscience.

it is not about wanting to offend or insult, but about recognising the right to object on conscientious grounds.

anyone who is interested can read the text of the regulations here

for my part, i am most concerned about the reference to education, and worry that in the not to distant future some homosexual adoptive parents are going to force far reaching changes into the syllabus and dictate what could be taught to my children in the interests of promoting understanding and tolerance.

  • 8.
  • At 02:36 AM on 16 Dec 2006,
  • helen maddan wrote:

I've learned something tonight from vol simpleton. He says he's a buddhist. I didnt realise buddhists could be homophobes.

As for the new law. Grow up guys. It's about fair treatment of minorities. Whether black, gay, christian or buddhist, everyone has rights.

I dont want commerical companies to mistreat christians because of their faith, or gays because of their sexuality.

  • 9.
  • At 08:38 AM on 16 Dec 2006,
  • Voluntary Simpleton wrote:

What is it in my post is homophobic? I think (I hope!) you've gotten the wrong the end of the stick completely. I think we are making pretty much the same point.

BTW, Buddhists - despite their cuddly image - are just as capable of religious fundamentalism and rigid dogmatic thinking as any other faith community, alas. It's just you don't hear of it so often and they do have the good grace to be ashamed of it mostly.

  • 10.
  • At 10:28 AM on 16 Dec 2006,
  • Stephen G wrote:


You have a terribly low opinion of humanity if you think that only laws like these can make people act decently.

In my view of things businesses exist to make money. They can only make money by providing better goods and services to a broader range of people. If a shop wants to sell only to left-handed people they have seriously retarded their market and will not do well. Business men are much more rational than you give them credit for.

Anyhow, why do you hold such a low opinion of your fellow man that you think he must be forced to live according to your ideals? That you assume he won't act decently and morally without your authoritarianism? The philosophy lurking behind your views is, to my mind, arrogance defined.


  • 11.
  • At 03:07 PM on 16 Dec 2006,
  • pb wrote:

Should the church stand by 6000 years of teaching on homosexuality or endorse current thinking?

A few extracts from a piece on homosexuality (gay bishops) being accepted by the church by gay commentator and former Tory MP Matthew Parris;-

"...It is time that convinced Christians stopped trying to reconcile their spiritual beliefs with the modern age and understood that if one thing comes clearly through every account we have of Jesus's teaching, it is that His followers are not urged to accommodate themselves to their age, but to the mind of God.
When the row over the appointment of gay bishops first blew up I expected, being gay, to join the side of the Christian modernisers. But try as I do to summon up enthusiasm for my natural allies; sorry as I feel for homosexuals struggling to reconcile their sexuality with their membership of the Church; and strive though I have to feel indignant at the conservative evangelicals, passion fails me. I know why.
"Inclusive", "moderate" or "sensible" Christianity is inching its way up a philosophical cul-de-sac. The Church stands for revealed truth and divine inspiration or it stands for nothing. Belief grounded in everyday experience alone is not belief....
Jesus was never reluctant to challenge received wisdoms that He wanted to change. He gives no impression that He came into the world to revolutionise sexual mores. Even our eye, if it offends us, must be plucked out.
So this, in summary, is my charge against the Anglican modernists. Can they point to biblical authority for what, on any estimate, amounts to a disturbing challenge to the values assumed in both Testaments? No. Can they point to any divinely inspired religious leader since to whom has been revealed God's benevolent intentions towards homosexuals? I know of no such saint or holy man. Most have taught the opposite.
Can they honestly say that they would have drawn from Christ's teachings the same lessons of sexual tolerance in 1000, or 1590, or indeed 1950? Surely not, for almost no such voices were heard then.
...In which case, to what does this "reform" amount? Like the changes to Church teaching on divorce or Sunday observance, the new tolerance gains its force within the Anglican Communion from a fear of becoming isolated from changing public morals. Is that a reason for a Christian to modify his own morality?
....The Church must take wings and fly above sense, or it will drown. Let it fly - and fly away."

I can understand though not support a democracy changing the law on sexual legalities;

But I am astonished that the land of the Mother of Parliaments and the free press is proposing the stop the clergy reading out portions of the bible regarding homosexuality from the pulpit! It is all in the NI proposals, please dont dispute this.

Nobody else have any alarm bells going on here? EU Human Rights on freedom of religion anyone?


  • 12.
  • At 04:29 PM on 16 Dec 2006,
  • Voluntary Simpleton wrote:

You did need some sort of laws to protect society from the selfish, the greedy and the just plain stupid.
You do need to regulate business so that the imperative to make money does not mean that the marginalised are forgotten or trampled over.

There are also those, such as the homophobic among the biblical christian community, who would deny equal access to services for those their religion does not like and the rest of society must be protected from such (and before I get flamed, all other) anti-social elements.
Like or not SG humanity has elements that are greedy and selfish - I wish the ideal world of responsible and compassionate citizens you talk of existed but it doesn't and never will. Equality legislation is necessary to protect minorities.

The church can stand by all the teaching it wants for however long it wants but does not mean that the rest of society has to take it seriously. AFAIK, every other person taking part in the debate at Stormont was also a christian. As with the creationism debate, it really comes down the opinions of a few closed-minded dogmatists against the rest of society. Those denominations who demonise homosexuality are free to hold their views but should be surprised that fewer and fewer others are willing to indulge them in their prejudice.

  • 13.
  • At 09:38 PM on 16 Dec 2006,
  • pb wrote:


you have totally missed my point.

I was highlighting the dangers of censoring age old religious beliefs of any religion.

If it can be done for religion there is little argument for it not to be done to politics too, and where does that lead?

Have you no respetc for freeomd of speech, thought, religion?

I constantly hear speechs from the leaders of this march which demonstrate they have no sense of historical context into which they put their feet.

The only socities that went this way [homosexuality and/or censorship] were dying ones.

Care to come up with an example that disproves this VS?


  • 14.
  • At 10:47 PM on 16 Dec 2006,
  • Voluntary Simpleton wrote:

pb prophesied:
"The only socities that went this way [homosexuality and/or censorship] were dying ones."

What sort of apocalyptic nonsense are you spouting pb?
If our society is in danger it is not from homosexuality or the censoring of bigots.
Face it pb, we live in a post-christian age where more people feel that fundamentalist religion is a greater threat to society than any posed by homosexuality.

If anything is going to do for us it is the dangerous dogmatism of fundamentalist christianity and fundamentalist islam.

I think that there is more freedom of speech and religion than there would ever be if the religious fundamentalists ever got to run the show.

Can you come up with an example that disproves that?

  • 15.
  • At 02:34 AM on 17 Dec 2006,
  • pb wrote:


You can bluff and bluster for a week, but I can see through you.

You are totally at a loss to respond to post 13 because it is correct.

And I nowhere said homosexuality or censorship would destroy a society.

However unbridled libertinism and political totalitarianism will certainly contribute to it.

I agree 100% we are moving into a post Christian society. And we will get the society we want and deserve.

However it would give me no comfort to say I told you so, as things continue to decline in the years ahead here and of course you will not be held accountable for the mess anyway.

The police, judges, social workers and politicians have not a clue where they are going and nobody can deny it.

A brave new world; it will need to be brave.

Of course it is madness to suggest we look backwards as to how our society used to work when things were so much better; that would be so...backward.


  • 16.
  • At 08:38 AM on 17 Dec 2006,
  • Voluntary Simpleton wrote:

I actually agree that the end is nigh. But it is more likely global warming or some fundamentalist nut getting his hands on an a-bomb that will do for us.

There are many things wrong with our society but I really can't see that anything two consenting adults do in private will destroy the world.

The biblical injunction on homosexuality is not taken seriously in our society because most folks can see that homosexuals as a group cause no threat (they are no better or worse than anyone else). The bible is wrong in this regard.

This is not ancient Rome or Babylon. Although it could be a lot freer I believe N.I. is a still freer that the US where biblical christianity has more sway. It is a lot freer than Iran where fundamentalist Islam has more sway.

  • 17.
  • At 04:09 PM on 17 Dec 2006,
  • Stephen G wrote:


Protect minorities?

This legislation does not protect minorities. These types of laws violate the rights of the very smallest minorities: the rights of each and every individual.

If I run a hotel and I don't wish certain people to stay there - white people, men, heterosexuals - why should I be compelled by force to allow them to stay there? It's my business, my property and I'll decide who crosses the threshhold thank you very much. No?


  • 18.
  • At 06:39 PM on 17 Dec 2006,
  • helen maddan wrote:

Well Stephen you are an interesting one. Sounds like you wouldn't have any legislation at all to protect people from abuse from others. I thought libertarians were concerned to give everyone as much freedom as possible. I reckon the law should be involved to stop people discrimating against others - whether it's racism, sectarianism, homophobia, or sexism. It seems you prefer to live in a world were abuse can continue without challenge from the law. Fair enough. You can have that world to yourself. I'll stick with democracy.

  • 19.
  • At 07:22 PM on 17 Dec 2006,
  • Voluntary Simpleton wrote:

What if this hotel of yours wanted to exclude disabled people (cos they couldn't be bothered upgrading the facilities)? What if the only shop or post office in a village refused to serve blacks (for example) where else could those barred get basic necessities?

How would your libertarian society protect those who do not have the money or the ability to provide for services denied them by those with more power than them?

This is the second time of asking SG, I am interested in your answer.

I agree that anyone has the right to hold any opinion they want but no one has the right to use their position in business or society to deny basic goods and services to others.

What do you say?

  • 20.
  • At 12:59 PM on 18 Dec 2006,
  • Stephen G wrote:


If I am in business I can deny goods and services to anyone I wish. It's my business. My services. My goods. No one has a right to them my friend.

However, I am a rational business person - as business people tend to be to get that far - so I will do what will make me the best return. If I decide to exclude blacks do you not think that that will destroy my business? Will you and other decent people shop in a place that practices this? I'll go bankrupt.

99% of human beings are fundamentally decent people and it is this fact that will protect the vulnerable people you mention.

You have a terribly low opinion of your fellow human beings.


  • 21.
  • At 01:56 PM on 18 Dec 2006,
  • pb wrote:


You ask how what two consenting adults do in private can destroy a society.

The simple answer is very little.

But if the marriage/family unit disappears [as is happening] and leaders from all walks of life promote all sorts of alternatives of other unproven permutations that raises a lot of serious concern about the future society.


I understand that the vast majority of young offenders rarely come from stable homes, as a rule of thumb.

The alternatives you are proposing have no track record in sustaining a healthy society.

Now if you can site me an example of your utopia at any time or place in history where the values you propose were part of a healthy society I will be pleased to have learned something.

I dont think it is possible but I am alway glad to learn something from someone better informed.


  • 22.
  • At 02:49 PM on 18 Dec 2006,
  • Voluntary Simpleton wrote:

What you say is too idealistic. It is totally possible to exclude certain sectors from equal access to good and services and get away with it. Travellers in Ireland continue to excluded from many pubs and shops throughout the country and disabled people suffer de facto discrimination because of business owners unwillingness to provide access to premises.

You are wandering of the point - are blaming gays for the breakdown of the family? I think it is a lot more complicated than that. In fact I think it's a ludicrous thing to say. Social breakdown is caused by poverty, poor education, substance abuse. I doubt homosexuality really has much to do with it. Don't blame loose sexual morals for things than can be adequately explained by greed and indifference.

  • 23.
  • At 05:32 PM on 18 Dec 2006,
  • Stephen G wrote:


I never said that no one would ever suffer exclusion. My point is simply that no one has a right to walk into a bar, or hotel, or any other privately owned property without the permission of the owner, who is God over his or her own property. If anyone feels excluded then they can set up their own businesses or go elsewhere. In addition, I believe that most businessmen and women are fundamentally decent and will not engage in this sort of activity. Secondly, I believe that most consumers and customers are fundamentally decent and will not easily give support and custom to businesses with such practices. The damage to individual rights and freedom that such legislation and government interference causes far outweighs any slight potential exclusion that others might feel.

I think the central difference between our viewpoints is that I believe in the fundamental decency of other human beings and thus am will to trust them with freedom. You do not.


  • 24.
  • At 11:29 PM on 18 Dec 2006,
  • pb wrote:


It is hard to win with you. If I were to blame gays for decline in society (which I dont) you would call me homophobic. But if a say that all sex outside of marrige is a major factor you say I am wandering off the point.

You say poverty, poor education and substance abuse are major root causes and doubt homosexuality has much to do with it.

You seem to be missing my point. If you are a single teenage mother struggling with three children by three (absent) who you were never married to can you not see how the scene is set in every situation for poverty, poor education and substance abuse? both with the mother and her children as they grow up?

I am arguing that marriage is perhaps the building block of society, but it appears that such a statement is a virtual heresy in many politically circles now and simply cannot be considered.

You have avoided all my points about the role of sex in marriage and marriage in a healthy society from an historical context. I dont believe a society such as you envisage has ever existed or ever can.

I think you are being far too vague in your thinking.
Can you name me one problem for society if sex was kept withint heterosexual marriage and children were only brought up in marriage (leave out necessary divorce and unavoidable orphaning etc etc)

I cant think of one. I would argue that is because God's law is perfect.

But sex outside of marriage and children outside of this same mariage, what problems does that provide?

Well, stds, aids transmission, young teenage mothers, abortion, single mothers struggling with many children by many different men, the pain of growing up without a father and/or a stable homelife, the impact on your education, career, self esteem and quality of life etc etc And there are many credible experts in many walks of life who are raising valid questions about what impact growing up with same sex parents might have.

It is a very brave new world....much braver than I am!


  • 25.
  • At 07:54 AM on 19 Dec 2006,
  • Voluntary Simpleton wrote:

I agree that we need something to combat family break-up, absent fathers, teenage pregnancy. I doubt that traditional model you put forward is the only model. I see no reason why a homosexual couple could not adopt and raise perfectly normal and happy children.
The crisis that families are undergoing in this society needs more than moral admonishment from the Bible. I believe, too, that the promotion of stable families is crucial.
But I think we have wandered from the point. This thread was originally about the equality legislation. I do not see how equality for gay people would destroy heterosexual marriage.
I think it is impossible to prove that homosexuality either presently or historically contributes to the decay of societies. Indeed, sounds like you are trying to rehash an old testament myth. Gays are no threat.

  • 26.
  • At 07:37 AM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • pb wrote:


I disagree that it is wandering off the point.

The question is often asked what harm can two consenting adults do to society.

If the Govt is constantly promoting untested alternatives for marriage and if marriage is only real context for bringing up healthy well-adjusted citizens then that is a big problem on the horizon.

You will notice that no matter how many times I throw down the gauntlet nobody can give me a society anywhere in history where same sex couples have been a successful building block for society.

I am not blaming gays or saying they are "a threat".

But I am saying that if stable marriages continue to decline and yet temporary cohabitation and civil partnerships and single parenthood begins to increase as alternatives this is undermining society.

Would you buy a house or car without some indication of the track record of the company which built them?

The only precedents for the direction we are going in that I can think of are disastrous.

You doubt traditional marriage is the only model?

I understand my position may seem stark if you have never considered it, so do please suggest some alternative models and some suggestion of how successful they are, in general not specific cases.


  • 27.
  • At 03:12 PM on 20 Dec 2006,
  • Gee Dubyah wrote:


I have never seen a govt infommercial yet promoting homosexuality - have you? Or is allowing homosexuality the same as promoting it in your eyes? Please explain this promotion...

I think if you think about it for long enough you'll come up with a reason why noone has given an example of a same sex culture as a building block for stable society (think about the birth rate). That doesnt mean that gays are some kind of rot that needs to be stopped. That line of thought leads to Hitler and Stalin. No thanks...

You arent saying gays are a threat - but you should admit you are thinking it - otherwise why the concern?

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