Mid Ulster: Council backs ban on ‘gay conversion therapy’
Mid Ulster District Council has backed a motion supporting a ban on conversion therapy despite unionist members in the chamber either abstaining or voting against the motion.
The motion, brought forward by Sinn Fein councillor Cora Corry, called on Council to recognise the struggle for equality by generations of people who identify as LGBTQ+, acknowledge the work of activists to eradicate institutional discrimination and condemn inequalities experienced by those who identify as LGBTQ+.
The motion continues by welcoming the initiative of the Communities Minister in beginning a process to ban conversion therapy and calling on the Health Minister to address serious defects in healthcare services for transgender individuals.
It also calls on the Education Minister to ensure that sex and relationship guidance for schools is inclusive and covers LGBTQ+ relationships and transgender identities and calls on the Executive to commit to equality, respect and human rights for all sections of society in its actions, words and deeds.
An amendment lodged by Independent councillor Barry Monteith, asking Council to request a presentation from Mid Ulster Pride was also accepted.
The motion was supported by the the 25 nationalist/republican councillors in the chamber while nine DUP representatives voted against it and the six UUP members abstained.
Introducing the motion, Cllr Corry said the LGBTQ+ community is often left “without a support network” and called on the Education Minister to prepare young people for going into the world.
Seconding the proposal her party colleague, Councillor Donal McPeake said in recent years and decades members of the LGBTQ+ community have seen an improvement in their rights but said there was “still a long way to go” and said it was a “very depressing thought” that in the year 2021 conversion therapy was still a thing.
DUP councillor Anne Forde explained her party believes “discrimination against someone is totally wrong” noting that everyone in society is equal and should be treated as such.
The Moyola representative said her party does not support conversion therapy but had concerns that current proposals calling for a ban on the practice could lead to restrictions on the freedom of religious belief.
“As a party we do not support conversion therapy and are clear that no-one should be forced into any treatment against their will,” said Cllr Forde.
“Our approach to any legislation that may come forward will be in adherence to this principal. In equal measures we believe there must be a balance between safeguarding against dangerous practices and any attempt, deliberate or otherwise, to restrict freedom of religious belief, speech and association.
“We retain a great level of concern that the clarity and debate on this very important issue has become conflated with efforts to restrict these freedoms and restrain legitimate activities by religious organisations or others which cannot reasonably be deemed to be conversion therapy.
“Therefore we will not be supporting the motion.”
SDLP councillor Kerri Hughes thanked Cllr Corry for bringing the motion to the chamber and said she and her party colleagues would be supporting the motion.
Ulster Unionist Councillor Trevor Wilson said his party did not support discrimination of any sort and noted it has a clear record of support for the LGBTQ+ community.
Independent Councillor Dan Kerr said he fully supported the motion calling on everyone to be treated equally.
Councillor Barry Monteith commended Cllr Corry for bringing the motion forward and said that people in the local community are growing up and going about their lives in fear because of their identity and called on Council to send the message that everyone should be valued for what they are and how they self-identify.
He put forward an amendment calling for Council to receive a presentation from Mid Ulster Pride and this was accepted by Cllr Corry.
Council’s Chair, Councillor Cathal Mallaghan said he was “glad” that Cllr Corry brought the motion to Council and said that “anything we can do as a society to take away the stigma is very beneficial”.
Following the vote and the motion being adopted by Council, Councillor Corry said she was “delighted” and thanked those who voted in support of the motion.
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