Same-sex marriage vote sparks surge in calls to LGBT helpline

The same-sex marriage referendum sparked an influx of calls to a support service for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people as it recorded its busiest year.

Same-sex marriage vote sparks surge in calls to LGBT helpline

LGBT Helpline said nearly 77,000 people accessed information and support through its phone and online services last year, with demand highest in the week leading up to the equality vote last May.

Paula Fagan, national co-ordinator for the service, said major law reforms on same-sex parenting rights, gender recognition, and employment equality were important but the emotive marriage equality campaign was felt most deeply.

“While the outcome of the referendum was incredibly positive, the time leading up to the vote was very stressful for LGBT people and their families and friends,” she said.

“As the nation debated the referendum, many LGBT people sought support from our services to cope with the intensity of having their lives debated in public, or to deal with negative attitudes expressed by family members or friends.”

LGBT Helpline said traffic to its website increased by 65% in the week leading up to the vote compared to the same week in the previous year.

The group’s report revealed just over half the people seeking help or advice were aged between 36 and 55, and more than two thirds of the callers were aged over 36.

The vast majority of contacts were in connection with sexuality or coming out, or family and relationship problems, with most people seeking information on LGBT-friendly counsellors and psychotherapists.

Some 4% of calls related to violence, including homophobic and transphobic bullying and abuse.

Meanwhile, a bakery found to have discriminated against a gay man last year in Belfast has been vandalised and critical letters sent to its owner.

A judge at Belfast County Court ruled Ashers Baking Company acted unlawfully by declining an order from gay rights activist Gareth Lee last year. Objects were thrown at Ashers’ premises in Belfast’s Royal Avenue, although they did not break the shopfront glass. The attacks happened before the original court case was heard last spring. Bakery manager Daniel McArthur said: “Outside of a few random acts of vandalism and several fairly meanly-worded letters, there has been no adverse effects on the business.”

Mr Lee, a member of the LGBT advocacy group Queer Space, wanted a cake featuring Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie with the slogan ‘Support Gay Marriage’.

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