“Attacks on the LGBT community are a direct result of the political, social and religious culture in Northern Ireland which says gay people are not equal, should not have equal rights and should be marginalised”, Workers Party representative in North Belfast Gemma Weir has said.
Her comments follow last weekend’s homophobic attack on a man near Belfast city centre.
“Year upon year the hate crime figures in Northern Ireland continue to rise”, Gemma said
“We cannot go on acting as if this is a coincidence or a naturally occurring phenomenon”, she said.
“Hate crimes, whether they are homophobic, racist or sectarian, take their lead from the culture we create. In Northern Ireland we continue to send out a clear message to the LGBT community that they are less than equal and last weekend’s attack is just one of the outcomes of that philosophy”, Gemma said.
“The impact of that inward, insular and ultimately dangerous philosophy is also felt by those who stand with the LGBT community. The refusal of local church elders to work with their fellow elder David Ford because of his support for marriage equality sends a negative message to the entire community and further compounds a culture in which homophobes flourish”, Gemma added.
“It will be a long and difficult struggle to eradicate homophobia and hate crime in Northern Ireland but it is the responsibility of us all to ensure that it happens.
“The introduction of legislation for same sex marriage by the Assembly would be a significant start. It would reflect the mood and the will of the majority of people in Northern Ireland, it would signal to the LGBT community that their rights are as important as everyone else’s and it would begin the process of challenging and overcoming the current culture of homophobia and hate.”, Gemma concluded.