I read Rev Kirkland’s letter (December 11) with dismay. He claims it is right to bring balance to an unbalanced provision with the conscience clause.
The Sexual Orientation regulations within the Equality Act in 2006 were the means to bring that balance to a then unbalanced provision.
This conscience clause is step back to how things were for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered (LGBT)people in Northern Ireland before that time. It was the reason I and many other LGBT people left Northern Ireland as soon as we were able as adults to find more tolerance in Britain.
However, this conscience clause uses some pretty strong language and some pretty open interpretation of three key words. It states: “Nothing in these regulations shall make it unlawful to restrict provision of goods, facilities and services...to avoid endorsing, promoting or facilitating behaviour or beliefs which conflict with the strong held religious convictions.”
I note that this is added solely to the Sexual Orientation Regulations and not the Equality Act as a whole. So matters of conscience that the bible mentions for more than same-sex relationships are clearly not a matter of conscience that people of faith want to restrict provision to. This therefore makes it only an anti-LGBT change to the Equality Act.
But what is meant by endorsing, promoting and facilitating those beliefs and behaviour?
Part of most people’s behaviour is to go out and enjoy a meal in a restaurant. Are a same-sex couple enjoying a romantic dinner to be turned away by restaurateurs for they are endorsing same-sex romance?
If I walk into a store wearing a Pride T-shirt could I be refused service as the owner would not want to be seen endorsing Pride and the LGBT community?
Could a Christian landlord throw an LGBT person or couple out from their flat as he does not want to facilitate what he thinks is happening under his roof, while he legally cannot do the same to an unmarried couple without just cause?
This is not about the conscience of those of faith, as some of them are actually supportive of LGBT people, this is blatant direct discrimination that actually removes the balance in the Equality Act.
It is giving people of faith the right to come up with a reason to refuse one group protected under the act, that is LGBT people, goods, services and facilities with full protection under the law.