With the DUP and Sinn Fein pledged to produce and promote a ‘Sexual Orientation Strategy’, TUV leader Jim Allister used a Stormont debate on the subject to both challenge why there is a need for such a strategy, which he described as “special status” for the LGBT community, and to call on the DUP to abandon the project.
In the course of his remarks Mr Allister said:-
” It is disingenuous and, indeed, insulting to our intelligence for anyone to suggest that the self-evident procrastination on this matter is due to some deep-seated desire to study the issues and get the right answers. It is patently obvious that there is fundamental disagreement and blockage on the matter. That does not unduly unsettle me, but I certainly think that it is disingenuous to pretend otherwise.
“The problem, as I see it, is that DUP Members, in particular, want to ride two horses on the matter. They want to tick boxes in the Programme for Government by saying, “Oh yes, we are committed to whatever it takes”, and then, when it comes to the delivery of a sexual orientation strategy, maybe for very good reasons, they drag their feet to the point where nothing happens and we have repeat promises that are broken just as frequently as they are made. It is clear that there is that fundamental difference. I just wish they would do a full-frontal U-turn, such as they have found possible in other matters, so that we could reach finality on the issue.
“I have to ask the House this question again: why do we need a sexual orientation strategy? Those of varying sexual orientations, as it is expressed, are not subject to a lesser standard of law than anyone else. They are subject to the same protections as other interests under section 75, under the Human Rights Act, in employment law, in the provision of services, and so it goes on.
Mr Agnew: Will the Member give way?
Mr Allister: Yes, giving way is part of my orientation, so certainly. [Laughter.]
Mr Agnew: I thank the Member. He certainly is orientated in such a way. He outlined legislation as a reason not to have a strategy. We have legislation to protect businesses, but we still have an economic strategy. A strategy is about improving outcomes for people in the LGB community. Surely that is worthwhile. Legislation on its own is not enough.
Mr Allister: So, the Member is really saying that we need to give some special status to the LGBT community and that we need to feed its perpetuating self-pity because it needs some extra special protection. Well, I am sorry; I disagree. It is entitled to the same legal protections as anyone else: the same Human Rights Act; the same section 75; the same employment law; the same services Act; and the same provisions relating to hate crime. In our criminal courts, it is an aggravating factor when it comes to sentence if homophobia is a contributor to the commission of the crime.
“I just do not get why one particular section of the community is somehow to be elevated to this special status, this privileged position where it is to be given, for itself, some specific strategy that does not apply to anyone else. That is inequality; that is not the pursuit of equality. I hear many people in the House wed themselves to the notion of equality. Well, let us have equality and do away with the idea that there should be some sort of special status, some sort of special strategy for those of a particular orientation. This thing really has run away with itself in that regard.
“We need to keep ourselves focused on one law for all and all equally subject to the law. Once we depart from that fundamental principle, we create these special interest groups with insatiable demands where inequality is the outworking. It seems to me that those who advocate a sexual orientation strategy are on the road to demanding inequality of treatment for everyone else: special status only for those of that particular orientation. I think that that offends the fundamental principle of all being equal to the law and all being equally subject to the law.”