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Belfast baggage handler who claimed unfair dismissal after ‘gay cure’ comments has case dismissed

By Ross Semple

A former baggage handler from Belfast who was dismissed from his job after offering to ‘cure’ a gay colleague and complaining about a pro-gay bumper sticker being placed on his car has lost a legal battle after claiming he was unfairly dismissed.

Colin Robert Houston, a local council candidate for the UUP (Ulster Unionist Party), did not have his contract renewed as a baggage handler at Belfast International Airport by Swissport last year.

Houston, a pastor who has described Islam as “heathen” and “satanic”, subsequently took his former employer to a tribunal claiming breach of contract, unfair dismissal, discrimination on grounds of religious belief, political opinion and sexual orientation, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

His claims stem from a number of incidents. Last September, Houston told an openly gay colleague that there was a “cure for gayness”. The colleague in question did not make an official complaint about Houston’s conduct, preferring to “keep his head down”. Houston defended his position by arguing that his “significant public profile as a Christian pastor” meant that his colleagues would be aware of his views on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. However, the tribunal dismissed this assertion, arguing that his public status was not known by his employers.

Among the other incidents that Houston complained about, he said he found a bumper sticker on his car that read “I’m so gay I can’t even drive straight”, and claimed that a pink tin of deodourant was placed in his locker intentionally in an effort to harrass him for his views on homosexuality. Because the colour pink and homosexuality are inextricably linked, apparently. The tribunal dismissed these complaints, labeling the latter claim “particularly paranoid and exaggerated”.

The panel ruled against Houston in his claims. In their analysis of the case, they said that there was a “catalogue of complaints” against him by members of staff, including in relation to the ‘gay cure’ comment and alleged aggressive behaviour.

The panel were wary of the veracity of Houston’s statements, saying that he “seemed to be of the view that if he said something it automatically made it the truth”. They continued that the temptation to end Houston’s contract by his employer  “must have been overwhelming”.