Following the announcement by the UK government that gay and bisexual men convicted of now-abolished sexual offences are to receive posthumous pardons The Rainbow Project has called on the Minister for Justice to take immediate action to ensure that convictions occurring in Northern Ireland are dealt with in the same way.
Speaking on the announcement, Director of The Rainbow Project John O’Doherty said “Since 2012 gay and bisexual men in England and Wales were able to apply to the home office to have offences removed from their criminal records – this has not been the case in Northern Ireland. Indeed, we have seen this further move by the British Government to ensure posthumous pardons in England and Wales while once again LGBT people in Northern Ireland are treated with a double standard.”
“In August 2016 we met with the new Justice Minister Claire Sugden MLA and this is one of the issues we discussed. The inhuman way in which gay and bisexual men were treated for simply having a relationship is something our government should not only overturn, but should apologise for as a matter of urgency.”
“The UK presents itself as a modern, diverse and equal society – but the reality remains that the experiences of LGBT people across these islands are hugely different. It is incumbent on not only the Northern Ireland Assembly, but indeed the UK government to ensure that LGBT people living across the UK experience equal dignity and treatment.”
He concluded “We have waited 5 years longer than England for the removal of the lifetime ban on gay and bisexual men donating blood. We are still denied access to same sex marriage and the introduction of legislation to allow for same sex couples and unmarried heterosexual couples to jointly apply to adopt has still not occurred. LGBT people in Northern are tired of hearing politicians saying positive things with no follow through. No longer can we continue to be ignored while these islands present themselves as wholly committed to equality. Immediate action must be taken to address the current and historic inequalities experienced by our community.”