Recommending ‘gay cures is insulting and abusive towards homosexuality’ warns hate crime judge

Campaigners have clashed over a passage in a new report on hate crime about the nature of sexual orientation.

Tuesday, 1st December 2020, 6:59 pm
Updated Tuesday, 1st December 2020, 7:31 pm
Judge Desmond Marrinan has presented his review of Hate Crime Legislation in Northern Ireland to Justice Minister Naomi Long. The review began in June 2019 to find better ways to deal with hate crime in Northern Ireland. Photo by Simon Graham Photography.

Judge Des Marrinan published his report on Monday, which contained a series of recommendations on how hate crime legislation should be formed for NI.

However one passage in the report is now causing some controversy. The report says “it is now almost universally accepted that sexual orientation [and race] is equally immutable and cannot be ‘cured’. To suggest otherwise is insulting and abusive towards homosexuality”.

But Simon Calvert, spokesman for The Christian Institute, took exception. “This report should worry anyone who cares about freedom of speech,” he said. “Because no matter who you are or what you believe in, if these draconian proposals become law, you could find yourself on the wrong end of them.” He added: “People do change. Some who used to be heterosexual are now homosexual and vice versa.”

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Co Down man Mike Davidson of Core Issues Trust, who has decribed himself as “ex-gay”, also objected.

“I know that homosexual temptation is not the essence of a person - for me it was a symptom and once I recognised the emotional issues it masked, I was able to deal with the behaviours that I disliked,” he said. The International Federation for Therapeutic and Counselling Choice continues to support professionals who support his view, he added.

But gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell sided strongly with Mr Marrinan.

“The scientific evidence is overwhelming: people do not choose their sexuality,” he said. “But it is irrelevant whether sexual orientation is immutable or not. LGBT+ people exist and they therefore deserve equal human rights and the same protection against hate crime as everyone else.”

Anglican minister Rev Andrew Rawding, former Vice Chair of Mid Ulster Pride, also supported the report.

“I welcome protection and safeguarding for people who are homosexual, and especially for those who are transgender,” he said. “The Marrinan Report supports love and acceptance for people who are homosexual and transgender.”

Seperately, David Smyth of the Evangelical Alliance said he was still assessing the report. “While we welcome the strong desire to protect vulnerable categories of people from malicious speech, we have initial concerns about the impact of some of the proposals on freedom of speech in public and domestic setting, for those of different faiths and none,” he said.

Presbyterian Moderator Rev Dr David Bruce also said there is much to digest in the “thorough report”. Speaking generally, he added: “There must still be space within society to express views with which others may disagree, recognising that this works both ways and allows people to express views about religion with which we may disagree. After all, the freedom to only express ideas that are popular is no freedom at all.”

Mr Marrinan’s report also recommended adding “age” to the various categories of hate crime.

The move was welcomed yesterday by the Commissioner for Older People and Age NI.

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