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Sunday, 11 May 2008

Gay? You're fired!

If you’re gay, you’re out. And we don’t give a monkey’s arse about proper equality. This is the effect of a European Commission ruling, and some people in the Republic of Ireland are not exactly chuffed about it. Except the Catholic Church, of course. They’re rubbing their smug hands.

What’s happened is this. Under the Employment Equality Act there, religious schools can dismiss gays. This was challenged, but the EU, in its wisdom, has said it’s OK to go ahead and do it.

A story in Pink News says,

Section 37 of the Act states that schools that promote certain religious values can take action "to prevent an employee from undermining the religious ethos of the institution".

The European Commission initially warned that the provision was not compatible with EU anti-discrimination legislation, but has now changed its mind after the Irish government argued that it was a narrow exception to equal treatment.

The Commission accepted that an employee should not undermine the "ethos" of an institution they work for, such as a Roman Catholic school or hospital.

Even if that "ethos" is based on the ramblings of ancient nomads for whom certain rules might have had survival value, and so they had to pretend their god had handed them down.

Teachers’ unions fear the Act will be used to sack teachers who are gay, even if they’re not open about it. The 35-member Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual group of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation wants the Irish law to be changed.

"Section 37 casts a long shadow that, if we are out in school as gay teachers, then the possibility of dismissal might become a reality," the group’s chair, Shelia Crowley, told a recent union conference.

"We feel that if we live openly as LGB teachers in schools under denominational management, then this could be construed as undermining the religious ethos of an institution. Many of our group cannot afford to take this risk and be open in school about our sexuality."

She said gay and lesbian teachers faced "isolation, alienation, harassment, discrimination and downright bigotry" on a regular basis and stated that only six out of the 35 members were in a position to be open about their sexuality in school.

Time to take the word Equality out of the Act’s title, then.

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