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The Rainbow Project LGBT protest Belfast
LGBT activists protest the anti-gay clause in Northern IrelandThe Rainbow Project via Facebook

Outrage in Northern Ireland over proposed anti-LGBT bill

The powerful Democratic Unionist Party wants to add a ‘conscience clause’ that would allow businesses to discriminate against gay people

LGBT activists across Northern Ireland are in uproar over a planned legal amendment that would allow anti-gay discrimination. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) – the biggest political party in Northern Ireland – is trying to introduce a so-called 'conscience clause' to equality laws that would allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT people if they felt it was in violation of their faith.

It all began with a fuss over a cake (FFS), when Bible-loving business Ashers Bakery refused to bake a gay Bert and Ernie cake with the slogan 'Support Gay Marriage'. The Equality Commission declared that their refusal was in breach of equality legislation and is taking Ashers Bakery to court, because it's obviously shitty to refuse someone service on the basis of who they love.

But that isn't obvious to everyone. DUP politician Paul Givan believes that the bakery was well within its rights to refuse service to a gay customer. He has now proposed a legal clause to existing equality laws that would allow businesses to say GTFO to LGBT people.

"Equality is about ensuring that everybody in society is allowed to live out their lives," said Givan in a statement last November. Everybody except you, gay people – duh! Givan's proposal is supported by DUP party leader and first minister, Peter Robinson.

The Equality Commission believes that the clause will "significantly weaken" protection against discrimination for LGBT individuals, noting that there is also potential that the new rule could also weaken the civil rights of those who associated with LGBT people, such as family members, friends, or those who are perceived to be LGBT.

Pro-equality ministers from Sinn Fein have opposed the proposed amendment. A petition to protest the clause has garnered 100,000 signatures in two days. The DUP has asked for feedback on the proposed law by Friday February 27, which is tomorrow. Tell them what you think and add your name to the petition here.