A Northern Irish politician who called for a ‘conscience’ law to allow Christians to discriminate based on sexuality has been handed the country’s equalities brief. Democratic Unionist Party politician Paul Givan was appointed as Minister for Communities today – a brief that includes “policy responsibility for gender and sexual orientation”.
The MLA tabled a ‘conscience’ bill in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2014 that would exempt people with ‘strongly held’ religious convictions from equality laws – allowing them to discriminate against gay people on the grounds of religion.Last year he refused to even clarify whether gay sex should be legal, insisting in a TV interview: “I’m not going to give you entertainment value. My personal opinions actually don’t count.” He claimed at the time: “Equality is about ensuring that everybody in society is allowed to live out their lives. We now are heading towards a community where it’s not just about live and let live – people are now saying, ‘you need to affirm my particular lifestyle and if that goes against your conscience, you have to do that’. That’s not equality; that’s intolerance.”
Givan has also expressed hostility towards the country’s Equality Commission, accusing them of “dragging Christian families through the courts because of their deeply held religious beliefs” in cases surrounding homophobia.The appointment has been met with extreme concern from LGBT activists. Equal marriage campaigner Mal O’Hara tweeted: “The selection of Paul Givan as Minister for communities is a deliberate calculated insult to LGBT people and their families.” Activist Steve Donnan added: “Paul Givan, a man who supports state-sanctioned LGBT discrimination is now in charge of tackling state-sanctioned LGBT discrimination.”