A huge pink billboard objecting to the DUP’s “conscience clause” Bill has been touring around Northern Ireland in an attempt to convince Paul Givan to drop his proposed legislation.
The van has been paid for by a crowdfunding campaign among people around the world, who believe the MLA is introducing an anti-gay law that will legalise discrimination.
Mr Givan Private Member’s Bill was sparked by a case involving Ashers Bakery, whose Christian owners rejected an order for a cake iced with a message supporting same-sex marriage.
Ashers is facing a court battle over its decision to refuse to make the cake. The Equality Commission, which has taken the case against the business on behalf of the customer whose order was declined, has alleged the bakery’s stance was in breach of equality legislation.
But Mr Givan said he believed this was wrong and wants the law to be “rebalanced”.
Last month, 230,000 people signed a petition by gay rights campaign group All Out against his Bill.
Following this, 900 members crowdfunded the billboard van – paying for it to drive around Belfast and in Paul Givan’s constituency, Lagan Valley.
It parked up outside Stormont, Titanic Belfast and St Anne’s Cathedral, displaying the message “230,000 say no anti-gay law in Northern Ireland”.
All Out co-founder Andre Banks said: “The DUP’s anti-gay amendment would make it legal for businesses to refuse to serve lesbian, gay and bi people, just because of who they love. 230,000 All Out members signed our petition to make it clear that this just isn’t OK. Not in Northern Ireland – not anywhere.
“Hundreds of thousands of voices opposing the proposed anti-gay amendment were taken straight to politicians in Northern Ireland. More than 900 of us chipped in a small donation, so a giant billboard van with our message for equality could drive non-stop around Belfast and Paul Givan’s constituency, to push him to drop his anti-gay plan.”
What does the proposed bill mean?
- Paul Givan says the focus of his Northern Ireland Freedom of Conscience Amendment Bill is “making space for rights that clash”. He says it aims to “make space for providers” and proposes that businesses may refuse a situation where they feel they are required to “endorse, promote or facilitate a same-sex sexual relationship in violation of his/her faith identity”.
- For example, a Catholic adoption agency could refuse to place a child with a same-sex couple, a Muslim printer could refuse to print a book promoting same-sex sexual relationships and an evangelical photographer would not be required to choose between taking photographs at a civil partnership ceremony and losing their livelihood.
- But, Mr Givan says, an evangelical grocer could not refuse to sell an apple to a gay man, or a Muslim printer could not refuse to print a brochure publicising coffee tables made by a lesbian cabinet maker.
- The Rainbow Coalition, which supports gay rights, has claimed that under the Bill restaurants could deny a same-sex couple, a mortgage provider could deny a mortgage to a same-sex couple, and hoteliers could deny a room to a same sex couple as all could be seen as endorsing or facilitating same-sex relations.
- The draft Bill has been published on the DUP website. The party is inviting responses about its contents to be submitted to its headquarters on Dundela Avenue in east Belfast. The consultation will close at 5pm on Friday, February 27.