A veteran gay rights activist in Northern Ireland has said an equality quango’s court action against a Christian-run bakery is “unwise” and should be dropped.
Jeffrey Dudgeon warned that the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland has “twisted” the political discrimination law in the Province.
In November, the Commission lodged papers in court claiming that Ashers Baking Company breached political and sexual orientation laws by declining to produce a pro-gay marriage campaign cake.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph Dudgeon, who is hoping to become an MP at this year’s General Election, said: “I am nervous of gay zealotry, or any type of zealotry against Christians. It is a sort of triumphalism of people who were previously marginalised.
“There has been a lot of court activity, street preachers being charged with incitement. I think things have gone too far in that direction”, he added.
“I am concerned that the Equality Commission have now added political discrimination to the discrimination on sexual orientation as a ground on running their case against Ashers”, Dudgeon said.
“It is a test case again, and this is a test that would be best put aside”, he commented.
Dudgeon headed a campaign in 1976 which led to the eventual decriminalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland.
But he said he has not joined the campaign for redefining marriage, because when he lobbied for the introduction of civil partnerships ten years ago he was “not arguing for gay marriage”.
DUP MLA Paul Givan has launched a consultation on introducing a ‘conscience clause’ in Northern Ireland, in light of the Ashers case.
He wants to table a Private Member’s Bill to amend equality legislation.
Lawyers for Ashers Baking Company deny that they breached any laws, but a conscience clause would help to prevent similar cases being brought in the future against people with firmly-held religious views.