Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

If unionists are British they should leave gays in peace

By keeping out of ‘bedroom politics’ unionist politicians would be observing the very British trait of respect for |individual rights, says Henry McDonald

Just as the sound of the cuckoo heralds the start of spring, the sight of a unionist politician fulminating over gays, lesbians and bisexuals is almost inevitably followed by a sex-scandal involving someone else in unionism.

Thus Ian Paisley Jnr expresses his “disgust” over Stephen King marrying his long-term male partner and, hey presto, a rising star of the DUP, Paul Berry, is found enjoying a ‘sports massage’ from a male masseur.

You would think unionists would learn that there appears to be some weird connection between trying to mount moral majority-style crusades (normally with an anti-gay tinge) and the exposure of unrelated (though, typically, fellow unionist) politicians.

The evidence of the last few weeks, though, appears to suggest that, like the Bourbons before them, unionists have learned nothing |in terms of straying into — instead of staying out of — ‘bedroom politics’.

Why someone so genial and liberal-minded as Lord Maginnis should engage in this kind of morality politics is, frankly, disappointing.

After all, as one of David Trimble's closest allies, the former MP worked alongside Stephen King.

Maginnis knew well that King was an openly gay man: did he express his disgust, or abhorrence, then?

For both peer and party, this delving into territory more familiar to the DUP has been deeply damaging.

Maginnis has left the party he had served loyally for half-a-century and UUP leader Mike Nesbitt has lost a much-respected figure, particularly in the party's rural base west of the Bann.

Meanwhile, Millar Farr, sovereign grand master of the Royal Black Institution, has also waded into the anti-gay fray.

“In God’s law, there is no provision for same-sex marriage,” Millar told Blackmen gathered at Plumbridge, near Strabane.

“Holy scripture is quite clear on the subject: marriage is between male and female only. While man-made laws can be changed, God’s law is unchangeable.

“How politicians can imagine they have the right to create legislation which is contrary to Holy Scripture is beyond belief.”

That last sentence is extremely telling and indicates that, for some within unionism, the mind-set is still locked in the theocratic 17th century.

Of course, politicians through the last few centuries have created laws that were contrary to Holy Scripture.

If they didn't ignore the literal world of holy books in the past, we wouldn't have had the Enlightenment, the industrial revolution, universal suffrage, gender equality and the expansion of knowledge in all its forms.

Some governments around the world certainly do base their laws on the words of Holy Scripture. These include such knockabout-funster states as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Sudan, which solve their gay ‘problem’ by having those people who happen to be gay simply, well, murdered.

No one, of course, is suggesting that our own local theocrats would advocate the ayatollahs’ way of stopping you being gay.

Instead, they want to ghettoise sexual minorities, pretend they don't exist, pray for their souls, or use bogus psychological methods to try to ‘convert’ them back to the heterosexual world.

Of course, by pushing gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender people back into the shadows, such policies maintain a climate of homophobic bullying, intimidation, personal depression and, in many cases in the past, suicide.

On these grounds alone, in terms of common humanity, politicians — of all hues — should desist from singling out the gay community for attack and leave well alone.

In doing so, unionists, in particular, would also be staying true to a very innate British trait: the respect for the privacy and rights of the individual.

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