Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Gay rights issue hasn't been solved in last 30 years

It is hard to believe that, 30 years ago, homosexuality was illegal in Northern Ireland - the law never took lesbians under its notice - and every Northern Ireland MP voted against reforming the law.

Jeff Dudgeon (right) made this point when he addressed a service at St George's Church of Ireland in Belfast's High Street. It was held last Sunday to commemorate the successful European Court of Human Rights case Mr Dudgeon brought to change the law.

He identified three issues still to be resolved: adoption rights, blood donations and "most controversially, for churches, gay or equal marriage."

The marriage issue is tied into adoption, because here in Northern Ireland, unmarried couples - gay or straight - cannot adopt children.

A case brought by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, overturned that, but it is being challenged by the health minister, Edwin Poots, represented by the Attorney General, John Larkin.

Little has changed under devolution. A caucus of local politicians agrees public money should be spent holding back change, through both the Assembly and the courts. Lawyers fight the cases they are given. The two who represented the Government against Mr Dudgeon were Lord Justice Brian Kerr, later Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, and Sir Nicolas Bratza, who became president of the European Court of Human Rights.

Both went on to administer the reforms which politicians had paid them to oppose.

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