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Quinn will back move to stop discrimination against gay teachers

The education minister is “determined” to amend laws allowing schools to discriminate on the basis of their religious ethos.

Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

EDUCATION MINISTER Ruairí Quinn has said he will support legislation which will amend employment law and make it illegal for religious bodies to discriminate against potential employees on the basis of their sexual orientation.

Speaking at the annual congress of the secondary teachers’ union the ASTI, Quinn said he was “determined” to see legislation – similar to that tabled by Fianna Fáil senator Averil Power, and which is currently before the Seanad – enacted.

That legislation would amend Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act of 1998, which allows institutions run by religious institutions or orders to bypass anti-discrimination measures “where it is reasonable to do so in order to maintain the religious ethos of the institution”.

The legislation has been billed as an attempt to ensure that gay, lesbian and bisexual teachers – who can presently be legitimately discriminated against if applying for jobs in schools with a religious ethos – are treated equally when applying for any future positions.

Quinn said a similar pledge had been made in the programme for government, “and that is a commitment I intend to fulfil”.

The minister said he had been in discussion with Power as well as Ivana Bacik, Labour’s Seanad leader, and LGBT rights campaigner Senator Katherine Zappone, and that “we 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,” he added.

When publishing its Bill in February, Fianna Fáil said it was bringing forward its own legislation as the government had not proceeded to address the issue before then.

The Bill had been welcomed by the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Group of the Irish National Teachers Organisation (INTO), which said that removing the ability for schools to discriminate would be an “enormous and immediate relief”.

Read: Fianna Fáil proposes bill to protect rights of gay teachers

More: Teachers warn of strike ballots if allowances are cut

Read: Silent protest held as Quinn speaks at INTO conference

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Gavan Reilly

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