What is the ‘conscience clause’?

The ‘conscience clause’ is a Private Members’ Bill which has been proposed by Paul Givan, a DUP member of the Northern Ireland Assembly, and has been backed by party leader and First Minister, Peter Robinson. Paul Givan’s Private Members Bill aims to create a legal exemption on grounds of strongly held religious beliefs. In December 2014 the consultation was launched for the proposed ‘Conscience Clause’. If introduced this would allow businesses to refuse service to same couples, based only on religious belief against what is referred to as promoting same sex relationships. This would mean that a restaurant  or B&B could refuse service to a same sex couple or a landlord could refuse a tenancy to a same sex couple and their family.

The draft conscience clause amendment bill could have a devastating impact on LGBT rights here, and could damage efforts to deliver on equality in Northern Ireland. NUS-USI is strongly opposed to any move to create a conscience cause because it could have an extremely negative impact on LGBT rights. If passed it would allow religious people to ignore equality laws and discriminate against LGBT people. If the measure becomes law it would undermine existing equality protections and allow for the refusal of goods or services to gay and lesbian people on the grounds of strongly-held religious beliefs.

How can you get involved in the campaign?

NUS-USI are working alongside The Rainbow Project NI (TRPNI) and other community groups who are opposed to bill. TRPNI hosted a three city rally in January against the bill which was attended by hundreds.

You can use the hashtag #noconscienceclause and #equalityforall sharing messages of support and let us know what’s on your conscience. Make sure to nominate your friends and spread the word.

We would also encourage everyone to get in touch with their local councillors and MLAs to come out against the conscience clause bill introduced by Paul Givan.

Full information on The Rainbow Project NI’s campaign can be found here