"Your moral compass is broken." Opposing Northern Ireland's anti-gay 'conscience clause'

Excerpt of speech given by Amnesty International's Patrick Corrigan at a rally at Belfast City Hall on Saturday 31 January, against a "conscience clause" Bill proposed in the Northern Ireland Assembly:

“What is proposed is not a conscience clause, it is a discrimination clause.

This is not about freedom of religion, this is about the freedom to treat a section of our population as second class citizens.

This law is not welcome and it is not needed. The law already strikes a fair balance between the human right to freedom of religion and the human right not to suffer discrimination.  

Amnesty International will stand up for the right to freedom of religious expression here, just as we do around the world where that right is threatened or where religious minorities are persecuted.

But equally, and just as surely, we will stand up for the human right to be free from religion where some people want their religious beliefs to provide a legal licence to discriminate against other people.

Having strongly held religious beliefs does not privilege you to discriminate against others.

And those who would have the law enshrine discrimination on this basis must understand that principle.

What sort of society do they think we want? What sort of people do they think we are? 

Do they think we would stand idly by while we, our friends, our neighbours, our brothers and sisters are treated like second class citizens?

Don’t they realise that we will oppose this, just as we oppose other attempts to tell gay citizens that they are not equal members of this society, entitled to the same rights – the same rights, no more and no less - as everyone else. 

The right to give blood to save the life of their neighbour. 

The right to give an adoptive home to a child in need of care. 

The right to get married to the person they love.

Rather than lending his support to further discrimination, our First Minister should concentrate on eradicating these inequalities. 

Indeed, he should concentrate on publishing the long overdue sexual orientation strategy, which might actually tackle the problem of homophobia in our midst.

I was always taught that you should love your neighbour as yourself and treat others as you would want to be treated.

That is at the core of my understanding of equality and my understanding of morality.

I say to those behind this law: if the code by which you live your life tells you that it is OK to treat some people as inferior, then you need to take a good, hard look at yourself. 

Your moral compass is broken."

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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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