In April we saw a step in the right direction when the Northern Irish Assembly voted to ban conversion therapy; though the vote was not without controversy – reflecting the completely outdated politics many hold in Stormont. The motion, put forward by the UUP was supported by Alliance, Sinn Féin, SDLP, and the Green Party; but struggled to get full support from other Unionist parties. While the motion aimed to put an end to all forms of therapy or treatment that attempts to change a person’s sexuality, a DUP amendment argued that this broad definition limits religious freedom to provide pastoral care to those struggling with their sexuality.
Conversion therapy in the North was already often disguised as ‘healing prayer’ up until this vote and would no doubt continue to be afterwards, so this DUP amendment essentially dissolved all substance from the motion. Telling those belonging to the LGBTQ+ community that they have chosen this path or that there is a ‘cure’ for their sexuality is inherently traumatic whether it has religious undertones or otherwise.
Despite putting forward an amendment that essentially made the motion null and void, DUP leader Arlene Foster along with two other DUP ministers abstained from the vote. This abstention – along with her handling of Brexit and the ‘Cash-for-Ash’ scandal – is reportedly why Foster resigned from her role eight days later. From Foster’s resignation we can see the strong convictions the DUP continues to hold when it comes to opposing the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.
Militant Left argues that we need to continue fighting against these convictions; defend the importance of Pride and its history; and, how fundamental these societal issues are to the structure of Stormont. This vote was a progressive development; but with Jeffrey Donaldson – extreme lobbyist against the rights of the LGBTQ+ community – being the most likely soon to be leader of the DUP, we have a long way to go.