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Save Ulster from Sodomy was a political campaign launched in 1977 by the Rev. Ian Paisley, Member of Parliament, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and head of the Free Presbyterian Church, to prevent the decriminalization of homosexual acts in Northern Ireland.[1] The campaign was ultimately unsuccessful.


Homosexual acts were first decriminalized in the United Kingdom in 1967 in the legal constituency of England and Wales, under the Sexual Offenses Act 1967. This change in law did not apply to Northern Ireland or Scotland. In 1975 the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association was established to campaign to have the act extended to Northern Ireland. In response to the government's proposal to consider law reform Paisley launched Save Ulster from Sodomy, a campaign given a further boost when the law was extended to Scotland in 1980. The campaign was based on his belief that the Bible condemns homosexuality as a sin, which should therefore not be legally acceptable in a state founded on Christian principles.

The campaign itself was particularly linked to the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster wing of the DUP, and combined religious and political rhetoric. It focused on Paisley's belief in his role to save the "Ulster people" from those influences which he believed undermined their Christian beliefs and values, namely liberalism, secularism and Roman Catholicism.

In 1981 the European Court of Human Rights in the case of Jeffrey Dudgeon v. the United Kingdom, issued a binding ruling that the British Government was in breach of Article 8 (the right to a private life) of the European Convention of Human Rights by refusing to decriminalize homosexual acts between consenting adults in Northern Ireland. Consequently, despite Paisley's campaign, homosexual acts in Northern Ireland were decriminalized in 1982.

The DUP remains opposed to homosexuality, and in September 2004 the British government agreed to postpone a vote in the House of Commons on the Civil Partnerships Bill to avoid a clash with talks aimed aimed restoring devolved rule in Northern Ireland. All six DUP Members of Parliament planned to vote against the bill.[2]


  1. "Paisley campaigns to 'save Ulster from Sodomy'", The Irish Times, October 20, 1977, p. 7. Retrieved on 2008-05-07. 
  2. Henry McDonald. "Blair delays gay marriage bill to give Paisley party chance to vote", The Observer, September 19, 2004. Retrieved on 2008-05-07. 
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