Education Minister Ruairi Quinn and the secondary teachers union has led a campaign to amend Section 37 of the Employment Equality Act to remove discrimination against gay and lesbian teachers.
The Irish Times reports that Mr Quinn told delegates in Cork: “Our programme for Government contains a commitment that we will remove discriminations against gay people, which prevent them from taking up employment as teachers.”
Senator Averil Power published a draft bill last February with the aim of preventing schools from discriminating against LGBT teachers.
Under current legislation, schools are allowed to claim that hiring a homosexual, lesbian or bisexual teacher would undermine their religious ethos, leading to job insecurity for the LGBT community.
Mr Quinn reportedly told delegates that he was working with Senator Power, and with Senators Ivana Bacik and Katherine Zappone, to achieve progress on the issue.
He said: “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.
“This work to remove discrimination will also be underpinned by the Forum on bullying which will take place on May 17th, and which will be supported by a working group on bullying which will initially focus on tackling homophobic bullying.”
Sandra Irwin-Gowran of Ireland’s Gay and Lesbian Equality Network said: “The Minister’s statement sends an unambiguous message to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teachers that they will be protected in employment and in accessing employment and promotion in the same way as their heterosexual counterparts. This will do much to remove the ‘chill factor’ that the threat of Section 37.1 brings for lesbian and gay teachers.”
She added: “In order to eliminate homophobic bullying from our schools we need to ensure that LGBT people feel safe to be themselves in schools, whether those LGBT people are teachers, ancillary staff or students shouldn’t matter.”