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Christian printer who refused gay magazine backs conscience clause Bill

By Noel McAdam

A Christian printer who turned down a contract for a gay magazine has backed DUP plans for a conscience clause in Northern Ireland.

It comes in the wake of the controversy surrounding Newtownabbey-based Ashers bakery after it refused to provide a cake with a pro-gay marriage message.

Now printer Nick Williamson has refused work from a gay magazine, saying the publication of sexually explicit images went against his faith.

But the magazine's editor obtained legal advice and the case has been referred to the Equality Commission, which is also taking a case against Ashers.

The debate has led DUP MLA Paul Givan to plan a Private Member's Bill to change equality laws to accommodate people with strong religious beliefs.

Mr Williamson told The Christian Institute website: "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.

"But from a point of 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."

"Ashers and I went about our business in a very gracious manner," he argued, but said he viewed the issue as one of "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."

Comedian Stephen Fry branded the DUP as "bigots" and the planned amendment as "sick".

Mr Givan insisted: "The LGBT campaigners are adopting a tactic of hysterical responses to it in an effort to try to corner people into not giving this the type of rational consideration that it should merit."

Background

Controversy has raged since the family-run baking company Ashers was told it had discriminated against a gay rights activist by declining to ice a slogan that said 'Support Gay Marriage' on a cake. The Equality Commission has taken on the case. But the DUP plans the NI Freedom of Conscience Amendment Bill to protect religious beliefs if people refuse to provide a service.

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