Tuesday 6 December 2016

Gay teachers suffering 'real anxiety' over religious law

Published 07/04/2015 | 02:30

Dion O Caoimh and Cara O Manony
Dion O Caoimh and Cara O Manony

GAY and lesbian teachers suffer "real anxiety" because of a law that allows a school to protect its religious ethos when it comes to who they employ.

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Equality Minister Aodhan O Riordain has promised to amend the legislation - but the Irish National Teachers Organisation insists that it must be abolished completely.

"Amending a bad law does not change it," INTO president Sean McMahon said in his opening address to the union's annual conference.

The issue of rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teachers is taking on a new significance in light of the forthcoming referendum on same-sex marriage.

Mr McMahon said Section 37.1 of the Employment Equality Acts caused real anxiety to teachers whose family status, sexual orientation or gender identity may be perceived as being in conflict with the ethos of a school.

Guilty

Under existing law, religious-run schools are not considered guilty of discrimination if they take action to stop an employee from "undermining the religious ethos of the institution".

While job applicants may not be asked about their sexual orientation at an interview, it has allowed schools to not hire certain teachers or to stop people from advancing.

According to Mr O Riordain, scrapping Section 37.1 would be a constitutional issue and the most the Government could do was to amend it. The minister had hoped to have announced his plans for changes to the legislation by Easter.

Dion O'Caoimh, secretary of the INTO LGBT group, told the Irish Independent that the proposed change in the legislation would only say that schools could not discriminate against LGBT teachers, but it would not protect them against getting into trouble in school for expressing their views.

Cara O'Mahony, who is with the INTO Kildare north branch, said in terms of a teacher's mental health, it was very important that "everyone feels equal in the workplace".

Irish Independent

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