Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council set to take part in Pride celebrations following heated debate
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A DUP proposal by Cllr Andrew Ewing, to amend the motion to include Church and faith rights and to protect single sex toilets, was not permitted by corporate committee Alliance chairperson, Owen Gawith, who stated it had “nothing to do with the original proposal”.
Castlereagh South, Sinn Fein councillor, Daniel Bassett bringing the motion forward, said: “This motion seeks to demonstrate our council’s dedication to creating an inclusive environment for all residents, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
“Supports initiatives that provide safe spaces, counselling and support services for LGBTQ+ youth to combat bullying, harassment and mental health challenges.
“Actively participates in local Pride events to demonstrate the council’s visible support for LGBTQ+ community and identifies areas to display LGBTQ+ Pride symbols in appropriate public spaces.”
In a thorough rebuttal, Lisburn South DUP councillor, Alan Givan caused a stir in the chamber when referencing his objections to a “hierarchy of equality”.
“According to the Northern Ireland Act 1998, which we all signed up to, we have a statutory obligation to uphold equality for all groups, we would be breaking our equality duty if we signed up to this motion.
“We would be setting a hierarchy of equality and causing segregation.
“What would a safe space in the council look like, perhaps we could call it the ‘Pink Room’, then what about a ‘Green Room’ or an ‘Orange Room’?
“I would not want the council festooned in Orange come July or staff wearing (Orange Order) collarettes, it shouldn’t happen, we should be neutral.
“This is a divisive motion. I have seen other groups bring judicial reviews on such inequality matters.
“We could see legal proceedings.”
At request from the chairperson, Cllr Givan withdrew his “offensive remark” on the colour coded rooms.
UUP group leader, Nicholas Trimble showing his party’s support for the motion alluded to the the view of “non-overlapping magisteria” in that science and religion each represent different areas of inquiry.
In seconding the motion for approval, Downshire East, Alliance councillor, Kurtis Dickson added: “We are currently living through what what feels like a backsliding when it comes to LGBTQ+ acceptance.
“I know from having lived in here all my life that our city has not always had the best record when it comes to treating LGBTQ+ with the respect and dignity that they deserve.
“I remember hearing many remarks that were made against LGBTQ+ people by many politicians of the past and present when I was growing up.
“I often get asked why so many LGBTQ+ people are interested in politics or feel the need to go in to politics and for me the answer is simple, because most of our lives our existence has been political.
“That is why I am happy to stand here tonight as an openly out politician, in full support of this motion and to make it clear to all the LGBTQ+ individuals living within our council that there are people in this chamber who are fighting for you.”