Maybe I’m naive, but my understanding of the role of politicians is to represent the members of their constituency in government. Young and old; unemployed and highly paid; healthy and ill; white, black, native, immigrant, Christian, Muslim… the list goes on. To sum up, I always thought that a politician – one who’s in local or national government – has a duty to represent everyone in his or her constituency.
If your constituent happens to be part of the LGBT community, however, is there an exemption present in some unwritten rulebook? Can a politician choose to refuse representing gay members of their community? If you happened to live in the constituency of East Antrim in Northern Ireland, this sadly seems to be the case.
Samuel Hunter is one such constituent in East Antrim. He contacted to his MP, Sammy Wilson (of the DUP, who also represents him in the Stormont Assembly) with a letter in support of same-sex marriage that was created by the British Humanist Association and Coalition for Equal Marriage. When Mr. Wilson replied to him, I was surprised at how he didn’t even try to sweet-talk Samuel, which is what I’d expect from most politicians who try to wiggle out of a situation. Instead, he was quite clear in his stance against gay marriage:
Dear Mr Hunter
Thank you very much for your email regarding same sex marriage.
I am not in support of this decision by the Government and, as a Party, we have registered our opposition to it and when the matter comes before the House of Commons, I intend to vote against the measure. Obviously it does not apply to Northern Ireland, only England and Wales, and it is my view that given the opposition across the United Kingdom and especially in Northern Ireland it is a measure which I would not wish to see even consulted upon in this part of the United Kingdom.
I hope that this clarifies my position for you.
SAMMY WILSON MP MLA
(Dictated by Mr Wilson and sent on his behalf)
Mrs Janet Barron
Constituency Secretary to
Mr Sammy Wilson MP
DUP Constituency Office
31 Lancasterian Street
Tel: +44 28 93 329980
Well, there you go. A politician who caters to all members of his community. Oh, wait. Nope.
In fairness, those who are au fait with politics in Northern Ireland might not be too surprised with Sammy’s response. Mr. Wilson is of course a member of a political party whose infamous former leader, Ian Paisley, campaigned to “Save Ulster from Sodomy.” In 2007, Ian Paisley Jr. stated that he was “repulsed” by homosexuals - while he was Junior Minister for Equality. The following year, Iris Robinson (then MP for Strangford) said in Westminister: “there can be no viler act, apart from homosexuality and sodomy, than sexually abusing innocent children”. Something tells me that it’ll be a while before the DUP take part in Belfast Pride…
Jokes and sarcasm aside, I’m pretty shocked at Mr. Wilson’s blunt stance on the issue. If you represent a community, it means you have a duty to represent all members of that community. While I respect Mr. Wilson’s right not to support certain issues, he and other politicians must look at this with a human and civil rights angle. Inequality and discrimination cannot be supported in a Twenty-First Century government, but it seems that the DUP haven’t learned this yet.