homophobia: still found in government

A friend has recently had cause to apply for Housing Benefit in Northern Ireland. This is not something that he or anyone should worry about.

Just for clarification, this is not to Belfast City Council in whose area he lives as in Northern Ireland the housing function is carried out by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

What is the Northern Ireland Housing Executive?

The Northern Ireland Housing Executive is a non-departmental public body, originally established by the Housing Executive Act (NI) 1971 (since superseded by the Housing (Northern Ireland) Order 1981). Under the terms of the Act, the Housing Executive assumed the housing responsibilities of 65 separate authorities and is Northern Ireland’s single comprehensive regional housing authority.
It consists of a 10 member board, including Chairman and vice-Chairman and is supported by a Chief Executive and under 3,000 staff who manage just over 100,000 dwellings.
In addition the Housing Executive is the Northern Ireland’s Home Energy Conservation Authority and also administers the Housing Benefit Scheme, which provides help with rent to people on low income.
(from DSD website)

But back to my friend: he has brought to my attention that there is a rather strange item on page 4 of the form:

If you or your partner are in a civil partnership we will write to you

There is no such statement with regard to marriage.

This is only the form used in Northern Ireland: having looked at the relevant form in England & Wales there is no such stipulation.

Logo of the Northern Ireland Housing ExecutiveThe form was revised in 2008 – but now, nearly five years after the introduction of civil partnerships we have a strange wording on an official form here in Northern Ireland.

Can it be that the Housing Executive is institutionally homophobic?

This should not be the case as under s. 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (c.47), NIHE :

shall in carrying out its functions relating to Northern Ireland have due regard to the need to promote equality of opportunity—
(a) between persons of different religious belief, political opinion, racial group, age, marital status or sexual orientation;
(b) between men and women generally;
(c) between persons with a disability and persons without;
and
(d) between persons with dependants and persons without.

Alex Attwood MLA, Minister for Social Development
Social Development Minister, Alex Attwood MLA

I sincerely hope that the Housing Executive has a very good reason for the inclusion of the statement above on its form. I have written to the Chief Executive and the Minister for clarification.

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