Today, the DUP and friends turned their attention to gay-baiting in an attempt to frustrate the progress of the new Sexual Orientation Regulations, which are designed to stop businesses discriminating against lesbian and gay people in the provision of goods and services.
Thirty-nine Assembly Members voted in favour of a motion condemning the British Government's plans to introduce the regulations. Thirty-nine voted against and the motion was rejected. The regulations will take effect from 1st January 2007.
Although Jeffrey Donaldson and George Dawson of the DUP led the charge against the Sexual Orientation Regulations, one can be comfortably assume that the vast majority, if not all of the other thirty-seven supporters of the motion were from within the Unionist bloc.
Unionist homophobic loathing was well illustrated during the introduction of civil partnerships for same-sex couples in 2005. The issue of whether or not to allow gay couples to use Lisburn City Council's wedding room threw unionism into such a tizzy that more than £20,000 of rate-payers' money was squandered seeking legal advice on dealing with the issue, only to find that any actions to block gays from the wedding room would be illegal.
At the time, Councillor Edwin Poots of the DUP likened homosexuality to alcoholism and drug addiction while the Ulster Unionist Ronnie Crawford said he was disgusted by gay websites that he had happened across in researching civil partnerships. How one happens across disgusting websites while researching government policy remains unclear. Perhaps, Mr Crawford strayed from the path to explore some of his own interests.
The comments by Jack McKee of the DUP demonstrate the influence of religious fundamentalism on political decision-making: "I believe that God made Adam from the dust of the ground and that he made woman from the rib of Adam and he made her as a helpmate for him. This is my personal belief and I believe it with all my life. I do not believe man came from monkeys, and all that."
DUP Councillor, Maurice Mills went a hilarious step further when he decreed that Hurricane Katrina was sent by God to punish the New Orleans' gay community since it arrived just days before the annual gay mardi gras. He's also an expert on the AIDS epidemic in Africa, noting that the "abominable and filthy practice of sodomy has resulted in the great continent of Africa being riddled with AIDS, all at great cost to the nations and innocent children." Quite.
This is what he said about the 2004 tsunami, which savaged parts of Asia: "These disasters are no coincidence, as God only honours those who honour him. I would ask why we don't see disasters like these taking place in Europe. Scripture says righteousness exalts nations. Asia is not a Christian continent."
In 2004, the DUP's Newtownabbey councillor, Arthur Templeton, was convicted of harassing a gay candidate during local government elections. Following the court case, he said he believed homosexuality was "Against God's teaching."
Examples of Templeton's behaviour are childish in the extreme. He apparently bent over in front of the man he was harassing, patted his backside and said, "Here you are, John." He also called him "queer" and offered to hold his hand while crossing the road.
Christian religious fundamentalism is so embedded within the Unionist political psyche that it's hard to see how any enlightened or progressive thinking can emerge from within it. Instead, we're transported to some weird, sepia-tinted parallel universe where everything revolves around the gospel hall and swings are padlocked on Sundays.
I'm reminded of the world conjured up by the BBC adaptation of Jeanette Winterson's 'Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit' where the reaction of evangelicals to discovering homosexuality in their midst is both chilling and comic.
Paul Berry must know something of this attitude. The former-DUP member and ardent gospel-singer, was suspended from the party in 2005 and then forced to resign after allegations surfaced that he had a sexual encounter with another man in a Belfast hotel. It transpired that Mr Berry's alleged sexual partner had arranged the whole affair as an elaborate trap in order to make a statement on DUP hypocrisy.
I wonder how Mr Berry voted today.