I am disappointed to have to report that your Council – led by the DUP – chose to vote down our proposal to light Ards Town hall in Rainbow Colours on Pride Day.
We did receive a lot of wonderful support from across the Chamber as you will hear in this audio clip, but some of the comments from non-supporters were frankly offensive.
I’m sorry we weren’t successful this time, but we will continue to challenge the DUP and their fellow travellers in the TUV to recognise their legal and moral responsibility to support minority groups in our community.
Meanwhile, here is the transcript of my speech on the issue at the Council meeting of September 26 2018
It saddens me greatly that we are being forced into having this debate this evening.
It saddens me because after the Committee passed the proposal that we light up the Ards Town Hall in Rainbow Colours on Pride Day each year I have been contacted by so many individuals and families across this Borough who felt that finally we as a Council had understood and accepted that the LGBT community needs our expression of support.
And it saddens me because of the language the movers of this Amendment and others have chosen. They have called this simple act of support ‘divisive’ and ‘offensive’ – and they have accused Cllr Muir and me of undertaking a ‘stunt.’
Because of course this is absolutely not a stunt and the very suggestion that Andrew and I would not have consulted widely with the LGBT community and their families before bringing this proposal to Council truly is offensive.
Let me make it absolutely clear to Members just how important this simple act of support will be to individuals and families across our Borough.
Within the LGBT Community, 47% have considered committing suicide and 25% have actually attempted it.
35% of the Community have self harmed and most devestatingly over 70% have suffered depression at one time or another.
These figures are truly horrendous.
But what we really need to understand is that around each of the individuals confronting these feelings there is a wide circle of family and friends who are supporting them and assuring them that they are loved and that the feelings they are experiencing are not unusual and most certainly not wrong.
But for many families this is very challenging.
As one parent wrote to me this week, “What do I do when I read where my 15 year old son has written ‘For Gay people like me, there is no future?”
Mr Mayor, there are many members of the LGBT+ community in our Borough who feel isolated and scared.
As a council there are a limited number of things we can do to help these individuals and their families.
But the simple act of lighting up Ards Town Hall in rainbow colours on LGBT Gay Pride Day as an expression of our support for them is one thing we can do.
Because while we might only light up the building for a few hours on one day, we will shine a light of hope into the hearts and homes of so many of our residents throughout the year.
Mr Mayor, I know the eyes of many in our Borough are on us this evening hoping that we will send them a positive message of support.
A message that says to our LGBT Community and their families and friends that Ards and North Down Borough accepts and values you, and that we will do all that we can to take practical steps to ensure this is a safe and welcoming secure place for you.
So, we each have an important choice to make this evening and the choice we make will have an immediate effect on so many within our community.
Importantly, we must understand that expressing our support for the LGBT Community does not diminish our respect and support of others throughout our Borough.
In fact, it makes our wider community more coherent as together we learn to celebrate and embrace the diversity that helps make Ards and North Down such a colourful place.
Mr Mayor, I hope Members understand the impact their vote will make and that they will feel able to reject this amendment. And I would request a recorded vote.