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GAY BELFAST NEWS

Latest News from Gay Belfast in Northern Ireland

Julie-Anne Corr with partner Kerry JohnstonBelfast'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)

Panti Bliss in Belfast for Pride 2014Irish 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."

chris hall from big brother 2014Gay Fermanagh Hunk Enters Big Brother House (06 June 2014)

A gay journalist from Fermanagh is one of the ten housemates in the new series of Big Reporter Christopher Hall (23) has joined a devout Catholic and the woman who claims to have bedded Manchester United star Wayne Rooney while his wife was pregnant. Christopher said he admires people with strong opinions and said during his time in the house he "won't hold back and wants to let loose and have no regrets". He has never had a relationship but looks forward to "building something special with the right man".

He isn't looking for love in the House, but ‘wouldn’t turn it down if it came along'. In the House, Christopher says he will get on best with 'eccentric, uninhibited people'. He would struggle to get on with 'egotistical people and people who judge', even though he admits he can be guilty of this himself. As a housemate, Christopher says he 'won't hold back and wants to let loose and have no regrets'.

Three Openly Gay Politicians Elected to Belfast City Council (27 May 2014)

There will be three openly gay politicians on the new Belfast City Council, including the man who brought a case to decriminalise homosexuality in Northern Ireland in the 1980s. A celebratory tweet sent by Sinn Fein Councillor Mary Ellen Campbell following her election to the new super council. She said: “Aren’t the electorate amazing… Imagine no longer [being] the only gay in the village.” She will be joined by Julie Anne Corr of the Progressive Unionist Party and Jeff Dudgeon of the Ulster Unionists. Dudgeon, who led efforts to decriminalise homosexuality in Northern Ireland, is a well known gay activist. Jeff Dudgeon, a shipping clerk and gay rights activist in Belfast, successfully challenged the criminalisation of sexual relations between men at the European Court of Human Rights, having first complained to the European Commission of Human Rights in 1975. He forced the UK government to make Northern Ireland bring its laws into line with the rest of England, Wales and Scotland in 1982. Dudgeon was honoured with an MBE in 2012 for services to the LGBT community in Northern Ireland. Corr said: “Whilst I am open about my sexuality, I will not let it define me or allow anyone to fit me into a neat category,” she said. Both the Progressive Unionist Party and Sinn Fein support same-sex marriage, while the Ulster Unionists allow a free vote on the issue. North Down Borough Council appointed the first openly gay mayor last year. Alliance councillor Andrew Muir was elected to the position last June and was reelected to the new council at the May elections last week.

Banbridge Council Bans Gay Sex Painting (27 May 2014)

Art lovers have been urged to rally to the defence of a piece of work which depicts a gay couple having sex after it was banned from an exhibition. An online protest petition has been launched by Visual Arts Ireland after Ursula Burke's image of two men intertwined, with a voyeuristic woman observing them, was deemed unsuitable for inclusion in the upcoming exhibition at the FE McWilliam Gallery in Banbridge, Co Down.Banbridge District Council said Burke's piece, entitled After Frans Van Bloeman – Arcadian Landscape, will not be included in The Past is Unpredictable exhibition which runs from May 31 to August 17 as it's not suitable for children. Noel Kelly, chief executive officer of artist representative body Visual Arts Ireland, urged people to sign a petition to have Burke's excluded work reinstated in the Banbridge exhibition, adding it can be clearly marked as having content parents may wish to control their children’s access to. A statement from Banbridge Council said: "The decision not to include the painting has been taken on the basis that the artwork in question depicted a scene of a sexual nature which was deemed inappropriate for display to minors in a public gallery. "The FE McWilliam Gallery and Studio prides itself as a family-friendly facility and encourages visitors of all ages to visit and view the exhibitions in a welcoming and comfortable environment." An online petition is available on change.org

Stena Line Worker Receives £45,000 over Anti-Gay Abuse (13 May 2014)

Martin Sheil An industrial tribunal has found that Martin Sheil, 51, has been unfairly dismissed by Stena Line Irish Sea Ferries Ltd following homophobic abuse. It also ruled he had been the victim of discrimination and harassment at work on the grounds of sexual orientation. The company had “adopted a far too passive approach to unpleasant banter”, the tribunal said. Stena Line is appealing against the ruling. Mr Sheil brought the case arguing he had been unfairly dismissed following an incident involving himself and a colleague who had been taking part in homophobic abuse. The tribunal found the company had failed to investigate Mr Sheil’s allegations, and had not considered whether these were mitigating circumstances. Mr Sheil was supported by the Northern Ireland Equality Commission in bringing his case. “This has been a difficult period in my life. My job at Stena was very important to me and I worked hard to keep my private life and work life separate. I endured months of abuse in silence. The reason I took this case was to try and make sure that others don’t have to go through this. I am relieved this process is over and that the tribunal has ruled on the kind of the harassment I suffered. I have experienced a rough couple of years and I am now looking forward to a fresh start and just getting on with my life.” The tribunal panel had considered that Mr Sheil had contributed partly to his own dismissal by deciding to take action on the abuse himself, rather than reporting it to management. Awarding £37,500 of the total amount for unfair dismissal, the tribunal said “the flaws in the investigatory and disciplinary procedure render the dismissal substantively unfair”. A Stena Line spokesman said the company was disappointed by the tribunal’s decision and has lodged an appeal which is scheduled to take place in the Court of Appeal in September 2014.

Belfast goes Pink for Giro d'Italia (09 May 2014)

Belfast goes quite literally pink this weekend as the Giro d'Italia, cycling's second biggest race, kicks off with a city centre team time trial and then has a two further stages in Northern Ireland. Posters, banners, flags and bunting in the Giro's emblematic colour, pink, are already festooning many of Belfast's city centre streets and buildings, with several high-rise buildings papered over from top to bottom in the same colour. Even the Samson and Goliath have gone pink! The opening ceremony of the Giro d'Italia cycle race took place in Belfast last night. About 5,500 members of the public gathered at City Hall for the event that saw each of the 22 cycle teams introduced on stage. The race itself gets under way on Friday in Belfast with a team time-trial. It is one of three stage routes that are taking place at the Causeway Coast and Armagh. After passing through Armagh on Monday, the cyclists will cross the border and with the stage finishing in Dublin. The Giro d'Italia was first held in 1909, the long distance road bicycle stage race is held for professional cyclists over a three week period in May and June annually. The Giro is hosted primarily in Italy, with a tradition of the start of the race being held outside the country every other year. Keep up to date at www.girostart2014.com

Kremlin Up For Sale (01 May 2014)

The Kremlin nightclub, Belfast's most popular gay venue has been put on the market by owners (Seamus Sweeney and Andre Graham) for £3m. The sale also includes the Union Street Bar and Shoe Factory venues. The appointed commercial property agents (CBRE) expect the sale to generate significant interest due to its proximity to the University of Ulster campus, and future home of over 10,000 students. The Kremlin complex has been in business since 1999 but for the past five years has been run under a 10-year lease by Anthology NI Ltd.

NI Assembly Rejects Same-Sex Marriage for Third Time (29 April 2014)

The Northern Ireland Assembly has rejected a motion calling for the introduction of same-sex marriage during a debate at Stormont. A total of 51 assembly members (MLAs) voted against the Sinn Féin motion, while 43 MLAs voted in favour. It is the third time in the past 18 months that Stormont has rejected same-sex marriage. Northern Ireland is now the only part of the UK which has not passed a law to introduce same-sex marriage. The motion comes a day after Catholic bishops in Northern Ireland published an open letter to all MLAs urging them to reject the same-sex marriage motion. The first gay marriages have recently taken place in England and Wales, with Scotland due to follow later this year. The Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), Alliance Party, Green Party and NI21 backed the motion. The DUP and TUV opposed motion, as did two Alliance MLAs, Judith Cochrane and Trevor Lunn, how also voted against the motion. The Ulster Unionist Party voted on conscience grounds and only two UUP MLAs, Michael Copeland and Danny Kinahan, broke the unionist trend and voted in favour. Ahead of the latest Stormont vote, the human rights organisation Amnesty International said Northern Ireland politicians would not be able to block same-sex marriage indefinitely. Patrick Corrigan, director of Amnesty International, said: "Politicians in Northern Ireland who continue to block marriage rights for same-sex couples are like latter-day King Canutes, trying in vain to hold back the tide of equality. States may not discriminate with regards to the right to marry and found a family, on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. That obligation is clear in international law."

Twitter Abuse for GAA player after Gay Porn Appearance (3 April 2014)

Former Tyrone county GAA player and dad of one Cathal McCarron has admitted that he appeared in a gay porn film under the name ‘Fergus’. The adult film was available on gay porn site 'The Casting Room' where ‘straight men’ engage in sex acts for cash. It is believed that McCarron got paid just £2,000 to appear in sex romp. The 26-year-old was subjected to a torrent of sick abuse on Twitter after details emerged of him appearing in the film. The film entitled 'Masculine straight Irishman's first gay sex video', shows McCarron in a series of compromising positions with another guy. In the film the player states: "There's not much opportunity to do this in Ireland." He also said "I play football so I'm full-time getting naked in front of all the boys." Following a series of news reports last year regarding his gambling problems, Cathal moved to London for a fresh start! It is understood that the player is now in rehab. The player is not the first GAA star to star in a professional porn film. In 2010, it was revealed that Wexford hurler Greg Jacob had starred in an adult movie called Tanya Tate’s Sex Tour of Ireland.

Belfast Mission Dream for Drag Queen Minister (19 March 2014)

A minister who preaches in drag wants to bring his message of love to Belfast. Belfast born Ron Eberly, who describes himself as “Christ Drag Queen”, left for Canada in 1975, but now he wants to return home to speak in churches as his glamorous alter ego — Mz Rhonda. The son of a baptist preacher, Ron emigrated from Belfast's Ormeau Road with his family and later attended bible college in Canada. He met his wife with whom he had two children during a missionary trip to Belize — but they divorced eight years later when Ron realised he “had to live an honest life”. Ron’s family disowned him for 20 years after he came out, but he reconciled with them shortly before his parents’ deaths in 2012. He still uses his late mother’s hats to perform as Mz Rhonda because he says they make him look like “a little church lady”. on found love and married again 14 years ago, but this time to a man.

Since then he and his university lecturer husband Wayne have lived happily in Calgary where he continues to preach and perform as Mz Rhonda to fundraise for the local gay community. Despite calling Canada home for the past four decades, Ron keeps well abreast of Northern Ireland news — and that’s why he feels now is the perfect time to take a trip back. Ron said the gay scene in Northern Ireland has changed massively since he left in the 1970s, but he said there’s still not equality. “It’s amazing that Belfast has Gay Pride but I think there still needs to be more activism in Northern Ireland, it’s not enough until we have equal rights. There’s still such misunderstanding, particularly in the church. I was born to Godly parents. I didn’t choose to be this way, I was born this way — gay people are part of Christ’s creation too. As far as I’m concerned you can’t have Adam and Steve without Adam and Eve." Ron said he understands why preaching in drag is controversial, but says he does it for fun, not to cause offence. “It’s not a gimmick but I understand it’s a talking point for people. I think they’re more interested in coming to hear Rhonda preach than Ron, it’s something different for them — so it helps me to get my message out there.” To book Ron, you can contact him at roneberly@shaw.ca

Guinness Pulls its Support for U.S. St Patrick's Day Parade over Gay Rights;

Guinness has pulled out of New York’s St Patrick’s Day parade because gay and lesbian groups have been excluded, costing the organisers a key sponsor. The move came as Boston’s Irish-American mayor skipped his city’s St Patrick’s Day parade on Sunday after failing to hammer out a deal with organisers to allow a group of gay and lesbian activists to march openly. “Guinness has a strong history of supporting diversity and being an advocate for equality for all. We were hopeful that the policy of exclusion would be reversed for this year’s parade,” the brewer said in a written statement issued by a spokesman for its UK parent company, Diageo. “As this has not come to pass, Guinness has withdrawn its participation. We will continue to work with community leaders to ensure that future parades have an inclusionary policy,” Guinness said. Last week New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would not march in the parade on Monday because gay and lesbian activists had been again precluded from taking part. The loss of Guinness, the famous Irish beer, appeared to ratchet up the pressure on organisers even further. Two other major beer companies, Sam Adams brewer Boston Beer Company and Heineken dropped their sponsorship of parades in Boston and New York, respectively, over the issue. Representatives for the New York board of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians, which has run the parade for more than 150 years, could not be reached for comment on Sunday afternoon. Parade organisers argue that to do so would conflict with their Roman Catholic heritage. The Catholic church contends that homosexual activity is immoral.