With the recent release of the 2011 Equality Survey, some startling statistics show widely held prejudicial attitudes towards Travellers, the LGBT community and Eastern European migrants in Northern Ireland.
The inclusion for the first time of a transgender category highlights negative attitudes recorded at the worryingly high figure of 22%. The statistics indicating whether people would mind living beside a lesbian, gay or bisexual person has actually risen by 4% since 2008. Issues of prejudice are keenly highlighted in the report.
Coupled with this, we now have the recent homophobic bile espoused by Lord Ken Maginnis who, in short, has likened homosexuality to bestiality and paedophilia.
Maginnis’ comments come on the back of broader discussions around gay rights. Sections of the LGBT community have been campaigning for full marriage rights as opposed to the more limiting and segregated option of civil partnership. On the back of a recent defeat in the courts for gay couples seeking to adopt children, and with the continued exclusion of gay and bisexual men from giving blood in Northern Ireland, the state, its institutions and representatives are enshrining prejudice and hatred against an already marginalised community.
Straight and LGBT people need to stand together in workplaces, trade unions, student unions and communities in opposition to such bigotry. Belfast Pride and Foyle Pride show a significant display of support for the LGBT community. It is essential these Pride events are supported by people committed to equality and it is necessary that local trade union branches and community groups continue their support for these events. But we also need to take these discussions back into our workplaces, community groups, classrooms and discuss the type of political solutions that are needed to combat the homophobia of the establishment parties.