The DUP Conscience Clause Is Unconscionable

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The DUP’s ‘conscience clause’, allowing discrimination against LGBT based on religious freedom, is nothing but a license for bigots with no conscience whatsoever.

The DUP is up to its old homophobic tricks again, proving that their conception of the word ‘democratic’ is about as accurate as its use in the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea. In a move reminiscent of the Jim Crow ‘separate but equal’ racist laws of America’s deep south and Apartheid South Africa, the DUP plans the introduction of a “conscience clause” that will allow businesses to refuse service to LGBT customers based on their religious beliefs. Yes, that is as sinister as it sounds. It is a paper-thin attempt by politicians to validate undemocratic behavior under the guise of religious abstention.

The DUP is to table a Private Members Bill that will allow religious fundamentalists (which sadly have a disturbing pervasive presence in the party) to discriminate against the citizens they are elected to represent and sworn to serve, if those citizens happen to be gay.
Let that sink in for a moment. These elected officials have such disdain and disregard, such barefaced hatred for their LGBT constituents that they would seek to devalue their very citizenship and ignore their equality. The fact that in the same breath these people are quoting the bible and holding themselves up as paragons of family values and morality makes it all the more reprehensible. Can you imagine if in 21st century Ireland an elected official decided it was against his conscience to represent a black person, or a Jewish person, or a female? How about a Catholic?

To package it using the term “conscience” makes me want to vomit. It’s as if there’s some pious or noble virtue in being a bigot. The irony is that the only people who would conceivably avail of this carte blanche to discriminate must be bigots with no conscience whatsoever. And where would such bigotry end? With people deciding in all ‘conscience’ they won’t serve you in a supermarket because you’re queer? How about a private hospital?

In a part of this island where generations have been driven by discrimination and intolerance, the idea that the DUP believe that further stratification and prejudice is a way to progress isn’t just laughable; it’s deeply worrying. How on earth The Northern Ireland Equality Commission can buttress this blatant discrimination is beyond me. Not only is it deeply offensive to anyone with a shred of real conscience, but it also paves the way for the wholesale devolution of LGBT rights in the North.

I’ve already written about the spiraling levels of homophobic and transphobic violence in Northern Ireland. Often this violence is meted out with the complicity of Loyalist paramilitaries and a silent thumbs up from loyalist parties. The type of environment that such support for homophobia nurtures is dangerous and oppressive for everyone, and it also gives a license for homophobia of a different kind. One can hardly blame thugs on the street for targeting queers when thugs in suits in Stormont are practically giving them full permission with this vile “conscience clause”

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