During his speech at the ASTI conference, on Tuesday, Minister for Education and Skills, Ruairí Quinn announced that proposals to amend legislation and make it illegal for religious run schools to discriminate against employees and potential employees based on their sexual orientation will be published in the coming weeks.
Mr Quinn has been working with Senator Averil Power, who, back in February, published a draft bill to amend Section 37 of The Employment Equality Act, and with Senators Ivana Bacik and Katherine Zappone and they ‘are determined to achieve progress on this matter in the near future’.
‘In order to move quickly to stamp out such discrimination, I am also in contact with Minister Alan Shatter and the Attorney General, and we will publish proposals in the coming weeks’, the Minister stated.
The move has been welcomed by GLEN, with Sandra Irwin-Gowran saying, ‘The Minister’s statement sends and unambiguous message to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) teachers that they will be protected in employment and in accessing employment and promotion in the same way as their heterosexual counterparts. This will do much to remove the ‘chill factor’ that the threat of Section 37.1 brings for lesbian and gay teachers’. She went on to say that GLEN ‘hope that speedy progress will mean another school year will not pass when lesbian and gay teachers feel under threat’.
The programme for Government contains a commitment to end discriminations against gay people and it’s good to see the Minister actually making a move that will make this more of a reality.
I don’t know whether Senator Power’s publication of the The Employment Equality (Amendment) Bill prompted the government to act on this now or if this announcement would’ve been made regardless. But, to be honest, it makes little difference where the decision to act came from just as long as the decision was made.
It’ll be interesting to see how these proposals differ from that of Senator Power and how long they’ll take to actually implement. Hopefully it will be a quick process because LGBT teachers have been living with this fear/threat for long enough and they really shouldn’t have to put up with it for much longer.
The day this law is changed will be a great day for not only the gay community but for the Ireland as a whole. It’ll mark another step forward for equal rights and also make a clear statement that legislating for religious beliefs is no longer acceptable.
Now that will be a day worth celebrating!