Belfast Telegraph

Would any gay person here vote to keep partition?

By Eamonn McCann

If there were a border poll in the morning, why would any gay person in the north vote to keep partition? Why would they refuse to join with the south and choose instead to hold hands with Iran, Uganda, Russia and the Vatican?

In 2007 President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told the United Nations that gays couldn't be suffering oppression in his country because, matter of fact: "In Iran we don't have homosexuals like you do in your country. This does not exist in our country."

In September 2011, notwithstanding, three men were hanged in Iran after being convicted of homosexual acts - or, as the charge sheet coyly put it, "acts against the sharia law and bad deeds".

We don't do hanging here. But we do do the hatred that lies behind hanging.

In February last year Uganda passed a law that would not only have outlawed homosexual acts, but would have made it mandatory for anyone aware of "homosexual activity" to pass this information to the police.

The law was annulled in August on a technicality. But now it's back on the agenda, set to be put before parliament before the end of the year.

MP Medard Bitekyerezo, from ruling party the National Resistance Movement, showed a reporter pictures of his two children and explained: "Jesus does not want anybody to come here and destroy the children of Uganda."

Mr Bitekyerezo is confident that this time the Bill will go through.

A vigorous campaign by tabloid newspapers sustains a high level of homophobia, while acting as a warning to wavering politicians.

The Ugandan magazine Rolling Stone (no affiliation with the US publication of the same name) has managed to suggest a link between Ugandan homosexuals and the Somali militant Islamic group al-Shabaab, believed to have perpetrated a series of bomb attacks in the capital in 2010: 'Homo Generals Plotted Kampala Terror Attacks'.

The human rights activist Peter Tatchell observed: "You couldn't make it up."

But you could, if you entertained an intense Bible-based hatred of both Muslims and homosexuality. Now who/what in these parts does that remind us of?

In Russia, two years ago, the Duma (parliament) passed a Bill outlawing promotion of "non-traditional sexual relations" by 436 to nil.

Defending the measure against a threatened boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympics, Vladimir Putin insisted that the Act wasn't aimed against gays, but was intended only to "defend little children". Gay athletes would be welcome as long as they didn't "seek out" minors.

Northerners who balk at gay couples looking after children are, in this matter at least, more in tune with Putin's Russia than with Panti's Republic.

Then there's the Vatican. There's no political party in the north as close to the Vatican as the DUP. By this stage Nelson McCausland is near-enough an honorary cardinal. I am sure if he asked nicely the Pope would give him a hat.

Much has been made of a remark by Pope Francis that it wasn't his business to be judging gays. Wishful thinkers took this to mean that the Church was going to ease up on teaching that gay sex guarantees hellfire agony for all eternity.

But Nelson and the others can rest easy. The Pope has not deserted them. His spokespersons have spelt it out that while he doesn't want to pass moral judgment on gay individuals, gay sexuality remains a "disorder" and gay sex acts an "abomination".

Many in the DUP will, presumably, be relieved that the Holy See - almost alone in the world - continues to provide a haven for their most heartfelt beliefs.

There will be a rally for equal marriage in Belfast on Saturday. And, on June 13, a march organised by the ICTU, Amnesty and the Rainbow Project.

The clock may be ticking towards make-your-mind-up time. So, which is it to be? Are we to associate ourselves with gay-haters like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ugandan president Yoweri Musegveni, Vladmir Putin and the Vatican? Or with those who want to live in the free state of Panti Bliss, Ailbhe Smyth, Donal og Cusack, even Bono?

Could we put it like that on the border poll ballot paper, to make the choice meaningful?

Personally, I knew that the game was up and the result of the southern vote a foregone conclusion when I looked down the list of supporters of each side to check what the divas of Derry were saying and discovered that Dana was urging No, SOAK campaigning for Yes.

As the sensationally brilliant Bridie puts it in Sea Creatures: "They don't know what love is/Throw it around like it was worthless."

Belfast Telegraph


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