Northern Ireland

Rainbow flag set to fly from Belfast City Hall

City Hall in Belfast
Image caption The decision is expected to be ratified by the full council at its next meeting on 1 July

The rainbow flag is set to fly from Belfast City Hall for the first time to mark Pride Day on 3 August.

That follows a decision by a Belfast City Council committee on Friday.

The Strategic Policy and Resources Committee (SPRC) approved the move following the results of an equality screening.

The council had previously received a complaint that flying the flag would make City Hall less welcoming for Christians.

The committee's decision is now expected to be ratified by the full council at its next meeting on 1 July.

It will be only the second time that flying a flag other than the Union flag has been formally approved by the council since a decision was made in 2012 to fly that flag on designated days only.

A decision was previously made by council in 2013 to fly the Armed Forces flag annually to mark Armed Forces Day.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Since it was created by Gilbert Baker in 1978, the rainbow flag has grown to become the most recognisable symbol of LGBT groups

A motion to fly the rainbow flag from Belfast City Hall to mark Pride was originally proposed by the former Sinn Féin councillor Mary Ellen Campbell on 22 March.

Councillors on the SPRC agreed in principle, subject to an equality screening.

The results of that screening were presented to the committee at Friday's meeting.

It revealed that the council had received a complaint that, if it flew the rainbow flag, City Hall would not be "a welcoming place for everyone, especially people like myself who are Christians and believe that homosexuality is not right".

No major impacts

"Belfast City Council are clearly taking sides on a political argument and therefore City Hall will not be a neutral building," the unidentified complainant stated.

However, the screening also noted that other Christians took part in Pride marches across the UK, citing the Christians at Pride organisation.

The screening said that although attitudes to Pride differed, there were no major negative impacts to flying the flag.

Legal opinion provided to the committee also said that flying the rainbow flag "is unlikely to be subject to successful challenge by judicial review or indeed by a complaint to the fair employment tribunal".

The SPRC decision will come before full council on 1 July, but, as the committee includes councillors from Sinn Féin, DUP, Alliance, SDLP and the Green Party, it is expected to back the move.

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