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Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has tabled an amendment to equality laws that would, if brought into effect, allow businesses to descriminate in the provision of services to lesbian, gay and bisexual people. Opposition to the amendment must be noted before Friday 27 February, which is the deadline given by the DUP for feedback on the new legislation before it goes to a vote.
Sinn Fein and other parties have rallied alongside LGBT activists to stop the amendment in its tracks. AllOut has organised a petition to show public displeasure with the proposed amendment, in the hopes that it might sway lawmakers in Northern Ireland and elsewhere in the world.
The language of the amendment, which has been kept intentionally vague, would allow businesses to refuse services where delivering those would ‘endorse a same-sex sexual relationship in violation of his/her faith identity’. The wording, which recalls Section 28’s pernicious rules against ‘promoting’ same-sex relationships, also recalls Russia’s anti-LGBT legislation, which is apparently designed to prevent LGBT ‘propaganda’.
It is not known how, for instance, serving an LGBT customer in a shop might ‘endorse’ their relationships or anyone else’s – sexual or otherwise. But the law could have an effect where a sexual relationship would be more easily noticed or inferred, and where the outcome could be significantly more detrimental – for example, if a same-sex couple wanted to book a hotel room or rent a house together. In theory, it could also be extrapolated to apply if two men book a table at a restaurant on Valentine’s Day or for an anniversary.
A survey in 2012 by the Northern Ireland Equality Commission (NIEC), found that half of all lesbian, gay and bisexual people in North Ireland had experienced some kind of discrimination, and that the majority (80%) did not report this to the relevant authorities.