award winning portal for scene news and events for the Belfast gay and lesbian community and those visiting the city. Serving the LGBT community since 2003.
£40,000 Legal Bill for Gay Blood Ban (23 January 2015)
Green Party MLA Steven Agnew has blasted as disgraceful the legal costs associated with defending the ban on gay people giving blood by former Health Minister Edwin Poots. A ban on gay men donating blood was lifted in England, Scotland and Wales in November 2011. A judge has already ruled the ban was "infected by apparent bias" and backed claims from lawyers that Mr Poots' stance was influenced by his Christian beliefs. The High Court ruling strengthened a previous finding in October 2013 that the ban was irrational.
Mr Agnew slammed the expenditure as "disgraceful" and urged current Health Minister Jim Wells to abandon the action. "It is a similar amount of money to what was paid out in the legal challenge to gay couples adopting," he said. "Combined, these sums are significant. Collectively, they show further evidence that, as Justice Treacy put it, this is beyond religious belief and into the realms of prejudice.
"This is clearly a personal agenda driven forward by a previous Health Minister. Given that the appeal is ongoing, it looks like it is set to continue with the current Health Minister. I think it is a disgrace that that a minister has used public money to follow what had been judged by the courts as a personal agenda."
DUP conscience clause bill is 'SICK' says Stephen Fry (20 December 2014)
The Democratic Unionist Party wants to introduce a new clause in Northern Ireland's equality laws that would allow businesses to refuse services to a customer if it is against their religious beliefs. Critics have reacted angrily to the Freedom of Conscience Bill , claiming it is legalising discrimination, and a petition has been set up to stop the Freedom of Conscience Bill being passed. And now it has received support from an influential backer - the gay presenter, comedian and writer Stephen Fry. He tweeted: “Once again the religious right twisting truth to present themselves as victims. To be slammed by the bigots of the DUP is to be bathed in light and kissed by angels." Fry also urged his eight million followers to sign a petition opposing the legislation put forward by the DUP which would allow businesses to refuse to serve customers based on religious grounds. The Freedom of Conscience Bill was prompted by the threat of legal action against Ashers Bakery, a Belfast based Christian bakery business, which became know as the "gay cake" row.
Belfast School Apologises over anti-gay Worksheet (01 December 2014)
A Belfast school has apologised after complaints were made that it handed out a worksheet which branded gay people “homosexual perverts”. The worksheet was handed out in a in a Religious Studies class at Hunterhouse College in Belfast, but has now been withdrawn. It asked questions in relation to 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 and was sent home with pupils, at least one parent of which complained. According to the school, the worksheet was part of a wider discussion, and that it purposely included extreme opinions, and those on both sides of the debate. The questions read "What do these verses tell us about homosexuals? Who else is included with homosexuals? What hope is there for all these people?"
One father told the BBC to say he had complained that the questions did not “allow room for discussion and almost branded all homosexuals as perverts.” Hunterhouse headmaster Andrew Gibson told the BBC: “This is in the introduction to Christian ethics centred around personal and family issues. As part of this, pupils are encouraged to consider a variety of attitudes to homosexuality, the questions were set in house but they were in the context of the CCEA specifications. We have a very strong pastoral care system at the school and deal with issues around sexuality with great sensitivity.” He went on to admit the school “got it wrong” by allowing the worksheet to be sent home, saying it was taken out of the context of the class. Hunterhouse College has withdrawn the worksheet, and claims to have an ethos of inclusivity. The Rainbow Project, Northern Ireland was consulted for advice on how the school can be more inclusive going forward.
Ashers Bakery Says NO Apology Needed in Bert and Ernie Gay Cake Row (07 November 2014)
Belfast based gay and lesbian support group has said it is disappointed that a row over a 'gay cake' had not been resolved through agreement. The Northern Ireland Equality Commission said it was taking legal action over a Christian-run bakery's refusal to bake a cake with a pro-gay marriage slogan. Ashers Baking Company said it had declined the request because it was "at odds" with its beliefs. The Rainbow Project said a solution could have been found to the dispute. However, John O'Doherty, Director of the Rainbow Project, said: "The Equality Commission asked for an apology, they asked for recognition that it wouldn't happen again. There's going to be a court case around this, and this is going to get a lot more public attention and the discussions that are going to be held are going to be 'us versus them' and we have already seen that quite a lot. The reality is that we need to address the very serious issues that exist within our society around discrimination."
The Equality Commission supported the customer's claim for compensation, but lawyers for the County Antrim firm do not accept the bakery owners acted unlawfully. In a statement the commission said it is to begin civil proceedings. The row hit the headlines in July 2014, when the baking company revealed it was facing possible legal action over its decision to decline the customer's request. The cake had been ordered in Belfast by a gay activist two months earlier, for a civic event in Bangor, County Down, marking International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. At the time, the firm's 24-year-old general manager, Daniel McArthur, said marriage in Northern Ireland "still is defined as being a union between one man and one woman" and said his company was taking "a stand". In a video posted on social media Mr McArthur, said: "We feel that the Equality Commission are pursuing us because of our belief that marriage is between a man and a woman." The commission said it would have preferred not to start legal action. Northern Ireland's first minister, Peter Robinson criticised the Equality Commission's decision calling it bonkers. See our other article on this subject below - dated 8 July 2014.
Belfast's Councillor Corr to 'Tie the Knot' (15 October 2014)
Just five months after being elected to Belfast city council, Julie-Anne Corr the openly gay member of the Progressive Unionist Party is set to tie the knot next month with her partner Kerry Johnston in a civil ceremony inside Crumlin Road Gaol. "It's the biggest day of our lives and Kerry and I decided to make it quirky and lots of fun. I'll be arriving in a black taxi and and the jail was right up my street." said Councillor Corr who represents the Oldpark area on the council. The couple plan a honeymoon in Poland where they first decided to commit to one another two years ago. Councillor Corr has been outspoken on many issues ranging from flags to same-sex marriage which has been rejected three times by the Assembly. Northern Ireland is now the only part of the UK without full marriage equality.
Belfast's Top Gay Venue Kremlin is Sold (1 October 2014)
The sale of the Kremlin Licensed Complex, which includes The Kremlin Club, Union Street Bar and The Shoe Factory Club represents one of the largest pub sales in recent years and generated significant interest from investors. The purchase price was undisclosed, but is understood to be close to the £3m asking price. The complex started with the Kremlin Club in 1999 and has become one of the city's well-known licensed premises. Tim Reid, Director of Capital Markets at selling agent CBRE said: "As the economic recovery continues to gather pace, so too have we witnessed strong renewed interest in the Northern Ireland hotel and licensed sector. "The sale of the Kremlin demonstrates that there is appetite for larger pub lot sizes, where the premises have been well fitted and are underpinned by strong trading fundamentals." Formed in 2009 to lease and run the Kremlin Complex, Anthology NI will now take full ownership of the venues including the Liquor License, branding, copyrights, goodwill, fixtures and fittings. Anthea Wilson, Director of purchaser Anthology NI, added: "We are absolutely delighted to now own the freehold of the Kremlin having been the tenant for the past five years. "For us its business as usual, but with a few exciting new additions planned for the complex over the next 12 months as we expand on demand and increase our diversity."
Blair - Top 'Gay Icon' (28 September 2014)
Tony Blair, former Prime Minister has been recognised as one of the top "gay icons" of the past three decades, along with figures such as Boy George, Sir Ian McKellen and Barbra Streisand. He has been given the accolade by Gay Times to mark its 30th anniversary. Blair's period as Prime Minister saw the lowering of the homosexual age of consent, bringing it into line with that for straight couples, as well as the introduction of civil partnerships. It comes after he was given an award by GQ magazine earlier this month which declared him the philanthropist of the year. Gay Times said of Mr Blair's contribution: "Whatever the realities of his philanthropy and the backlash to his GQ award, his status as an ambassador of gay rights is undeniable. "An equal age of consent, the abolition of Section 28, legal recognition for trans people, civil partnerships, banning employers from sacking you because of who you love and making homophobia a hate crime - they were all on Blair's watch."
Panti Bliss delivery review of Northern Ireland homophobia (01 August 2014)
Irish campaigning drag queen Panti Bliss delivered her Amnesty International Pride lecture last tonight at the The MAC, in which she claimed that Northern Ireland still has a problem with homophobia: ‘It’s a great place and a place transformed for the gay community over recent years,’ she will say, ‘but there is still a long way to go.’
Panti Bliss is the drag persona of Rory O’Neill, condemned the role of religion in fuelling homophobia. “Homophobia is a problem in all of the UK. But polls suggest that Northern Ireland has a particular problem.
Twenty-six per cent of Northern Irish people in a recent vote said they’d have a problem living beside a gay neighbour and that’s a pretty stark statistic. I think the simple answer is that Northern Ireland is a more religious society and many people use religion as an outlet to express homophobic views.”
Bakery refuses to make ‘gay marriage’ cake (08 July 2014)
A bakery that refused to make a cake featuring the slogan “support gay marriage” alongside a picture of Sesame Street characters Bert and Ernie could end up in court, it has been reported. Ashers Baking Company, a Newtownabbey-based bakery is understood to have been sent a letter from the Equality Commission threatening legal action if it refuses to print the icing on the cake. Ashers Baking Company published a statement on its website defending its decision to refuse to bake the cake as the slogan above the puppets was in support of gay marriage. We are run by Christians who refused the order because it went against the directors’ religious beliefs.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where gay marriage is still not legal. That ban is expected to face a challenge later this year, firstly in the high court in Belfast, with the possibility of the action going all the way to the European court of human rights. Northern Ireland's first openly gay mayor, Andrew Muir, has backed legal action against the bakery, saying businesses should not be able to pick and choose who they serve.
In its statement, the firm's general manager, Daniel McArthur, said: "The directors and myself looked at it and considered it and thought that this order was at odds with our beliefs. It certainly was at odds with what the Bible teaches, and on the following Monday we rang the customer to let him know that we couldn't take his order." McArthur said the company had offered to fully refund the customer, who wanted to have the logo of the pressure group QueerSpace on the cake. The 24-year-old businessman, whose company was established in 1992, runs six shops in the region and employs 62 people, confirmed he had received a letter from the Equality commission for Northern Ireland. He said: "We thought that was the end of it, but approximately six weeks later we received a letter from the Equality commission. The commission's letter said that we had discriminated against the customer on the grounds of his sexual orientation." McArthur said he was very surprised by the watchdog's letter and had asked the Christian Institute, an evangelical pressure group, for advice. The institute supports the bakery's stance and is providing legal assistance. "I feel if we don't take a stand on this here case, how can we stand up against it, further down the line?" He added that it was not the first time his company had refused cake orders: "In the past, we've declined several orders which have contained pornographic images and offensive, foul language."
Andrew Muir, the outgoing mayor of North Down and a gay member of the liberal Alliance party, said the Bert and Ernie cake was for an event he was hosting in the constituency in May. He said it was ordered to coincide with the International Day Against Homophobia on 17 May. "Businesses should not be able to pick and choose who they serve," he said, adding that he would be supportive of legal action against the bakery. For Northern Ireland to prosper and overcome our divisions we need a new society where businesses are willing to cater for all, regardless of religious views, political opinion, disability, race, age, sexual orientation, marital status, gender and other backgrounds. I was pleased that another bakery, in Bangor, was able to step in and produce this cake for the event I hosted as mayor of North Down. We were able to ensure that this event went ahead, despite the actions of Ashers Bakery, and enjoyed a great afternoon celebrating the vibrant diversity Northern Ireland enjoys."