Decades of verbal and legal assaults on gay people

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor

Your ‘Morning View’ report (Another barbarous attack on western freedoms, June 13th) on the horrific slaughter of people in Florida at a gay club should focus the minds of those in positions of influence who fuel anti-gay propaganda which in turn prompts homophobic attacks.

It is reported that the killer’s family suggested the attack may have been a hate crime aimed at the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

I believe some unionist politicians should be more circumspect in their choice of language when arguing the issues of homophobia.

DUP MLA Jim Wells resigned as Health Minister following criticism of his claim that children who are raised by same-sex parents are “more likely” to be abused. Despite its claims to represent all views and differences, the DUP has for decades led verbal and legal assaults on gay people.

From its Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign, to its opposition to civil partnership, to its current proposed conscience clause.

Remarks like those uttered by Mr Wells feeds attitudes that lead to homophobic attacks, provides succor and encouragement to homophobes, and sends the impression that the Northern state condones homophobia.

It cannot and should not be underestimated to what extent homophobia is influenced by bigoted ministerial attitudes.

For example, in 2007 as a junior minister in the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister, the department which is charged with promoting equality and responsibility for introducing the Single Equality Bill, Ian Paisley Jr in an interview with Hot Press magazine said he was “repulsed by homosexuals”, saying they “harmed society”.

Then in 2008, shortly before her liaison with a teenage youth was exposed, then DUP Cllr Iris Robinson said she viewed homosexuality as “an abomination” and urged homosexuals to seek psychiatric help.

However, the DUP does not have a monopoly on the issue of homophobia in the North. The former leader of the Ulster Unionist Party Tom Elliott nailed his colours to the homophobic mast by announcing in 2010 that he “would never attend a gay pride march”.

There appears to be an absence of internal recognition within the DUP regarding the offence their publically stated views on homosexuality cause, and how depressingly predictable that such comments can still command a considerable degree of support in the North.

This being so, then these bigoted opinions must be challenged from outside.

Tom Cooper, Dublin