I feel for Ashers, says publisher who wouldn’t print gay magazine

Nick Williamson said it was 'tragic' that a conscience clause had to be considered
Nick Williamson said it was 'tragic' that a conscience clause had to be considered

A Portadown publisher who refused to print a magazine for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people said he found it “tragic” that attempts were being made to introduce a ‘conscience clause’ in the Assembly.

Nick Williamson, 29, who owns Blufire Media, said: “I think first of all that it is tragic that it has come to this in the law in our land that we have to try and get something like this passed. We have lasted this long without having to try and get one.

“But from a point of a view of my faith, obviously I think it is a good thing. However, I don’t think it has to be something that is only used within the boundaries of faith.”

Last year Mr Williamson came under fire after he said he could not have his business associated with the first print edition of MyGayZine because of his Christian beliefs.

At the same time, last year, a spokesman for the Equality Commission said they had been contacted about the issue and had provided advice regarding the law on discrimination.

The spokesman said on Tuesday: “No application for assistance was made to the commission in 2013 and the commission had no further involvement in the matter.”

Mr Williamson, who runs his publishing company part-time and attends Queen’s University Bible College, said: “The issue did not go anywhere. I heard nothing more about it.”

He added: “To me Ashers and I went about our business in a very gracious manner. It is not about the person and I am not going to tell you anything new in this, but to me it is about me going against my own freedom and liberty of conscience.

“It was me saying ‘it is not about you but about me saying this goes against my own conscience’.

“Equality is a two-way street, or it is meant to be. I meant to contact Ashers bakery to basically say I have been where you are to a certain extent, but I am surprised it has gone so far for them.”

Lagan Valley MLA Paul Givan on Monday launched his Private Member’s Bill to introduce a ‘conscience clause’ in the Assembly.

He argued that reasonable accommodation should be introduced to allow people of faith to live out their lives – in particular their working lives – according to their conscience.

The bid has been launched in the wake of a controversial legal action against Ashers. The family-run Christian firm is facing a court battle over its decision to refuse to make a cake that carried a pro-gay marriage slogan.

The Equality Commission, which has taken the case against the Belfast-based business on behalf of the gay rights activist customer whose order was declined, has alleged the bakery’s stance was in breach of legislation.