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Belfast Pride 2010: what we learned last night

A great evening in the Europa Hotel.

Senator David Norris delivering the Amnesty International Belfast Pride Lecture, followed by Pride Talks Back, when Norris joined local politicians and the Rev David McIlveen of the Free Presbyterian Church on a panel – chaired by the BBC's William Crawley – to answer questions from an audience of several hundred people, mostly from the local LGBT community.

So, what did we learn?

Ireland, north and south, is “nearly there” in terms of achieving equality for gay people, according to Senator David Norris.

Rev David McIlveen thought that some of those involved in the protests against the Belfast Pride parade were motivated by hatred of gay people. He distanced himself and his church from such sentiments (they hold a separate protest) and condemned violent homophobic attacks.

Basil McCrea MLA supports the right of gay couples to marry. I think. It was a "politician's answer".

Anna Lo MLA wasn't aware that people in the LGBT community wanted the right to have civil marriage, not just civil partnership. She asked people to follow up with her so she could learn more about the issue. Last year at the same event, her party leader David Ford (now Minister of Justice) said he didn't support gay marriage.

Conall McDevitt MLA would like the SDLP to have a policy of full equality before the law for LGBT people. It currently doesn't (on civil marriage) but he predicts that it will.

Bairbre de Brún MEP and Anna Lo made clear that there were children in care who needed adoptive parents and that gay couples should be able to offer a home with just as much legal right as straight couples. (Rev McIlveen had asserted there was a waiting list of parents waiting to adopt children and therefore there was no need for gay people to be involved in adoption).

Basil McCrea revealed the worst kept secret in Northern Ireland politics – that he is campaigning to be leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.

Did Basil McCrea think his appearance at Pride Talks Back would help him in his campaign to be UUP leader? No.

Senator Norris on Basil McCrea: "not my type".

Rev McIlveen thinks that gay men should be able to donate blood (unlike the current practice of the UK Blood Transfusion Services).

Bairbre de Brún said that if she had been aware of the blood donation ban when she was Health Minister, she would have addressed it.

Whatever the gains for gay rights at home, we must stand up for those in other countries persecuted because of their sexual orientation: David Norris (and me!).

Bairbre de Brún's gay hero from history: Roger Casement (said with a laugh). Anyone know any other Irish Republican gay icons?

David Norris reckons that if Rev McIlveen is going to quote the Old Testament on homosexuality, he should be consistent on scripture and support stoning for adultery and the selling of daughters into slavery.

Basil McCrea thinks the LGBT community should be tolerant of people in Northern Ireland who don't support equality for gay people. They needed to be given time to "catch up".

Senator David Norris's gay hero from history: Plato.

Conall McDevitt's gay hero from history: David Norris!

Rev David McIlveen's gay hero from history: none that he was aware of (but there could well he people he admired who happened to be gay).

Rev David McIlveen has more bottle than Northern Ireland's largest party, the DUP, which yet again failed to provide a representative to participate in the Belfast LGBT community's annual politics event.  I predict that one year soon, the DUP will have someone there. Who will be the first? Who has the mettle?

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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