DCSIMG

Gay marriage support motion fails once again

Pacemaker Press 28/4/2014  A pro-gay marriage protest at Belfast City Hall on Monday, ahead of Tuesday's debate

Pacemaker Press 28/4/2014 A pro-gay marriage protest at Belfast City Hall on Monday, ahead of Tuesday's debate

The Northern Ireland Assembly has opposed a motion which called for legislation to guarantee equal benefits for same-sex couples.

The Sinn Fein motion failed on Tuesday, with 51 MLAs opposing it and 43 in favour, and it follows the defeat of similar motions on two previous occasions.

The DUP had tabled a petition of concern, a veto which allows parties to block matters that do not have cross-community support.

UUP MLA Danny Kennedy was one of many who said their opposition was based on scripture.

“In my view it is neither sensible nor desirable to allow the state to interfere in the religious institution of marriage simply for political convenience,” he said.

But SDLP MLA Dominic Bradley said that the motion in question “does not have any role in dictating to religious groups which ceremony they can and cannot conduct”.

TUV leader Jim Allister was one of a number who asked if polygamous marriage should be approved on the basis of “love”, others also raising the prospect of sibling marriage.

Lord Morrow said the debate was “not about equality, it is about redefining marriage... this is about imposing a new genderless version of marriage on society”.

But Steven Agnew of the Green Party said that “none of the states that went on to legalise same-sex marriage have gone on to legalise polygamy or have they challenged churches to redefine marriage”.

To claims that same-sex marriage would undermine marriage, he said the number of people getting married has been going down and that MLAs should welcome efforts “to open it up to more people”.

But DUP MLA Jim Wells said there were 727 civil partnerships in the Province compared to 66,529 marriages from 2005 to 2012.

The vote on support for same-sex marriage fell almost entirely along green and orange lines.

All Sinn Fein and SDLP MLAs who took part voted in support of the motion, in line with their party positions.

All but four unionists voted against, with Michael Copeland and Danny Kinahan of the UUP supporting the motion, their party allowing its members to vote in line with their consciences. Basil McCrea and John McCallister of NI21 also supported the motion.

Those designated ‘other’ who voted in favour of the motion were Steven Agnew of the Green Party and Alliance MLAs Dr Stephen Farry, David Ford, Anna Lo and Chris Lyttle.

But Alliance MLAs Judith Cochrane and Trevor Lunn voted against.

TUV leader Jim Allister and UKIP MLA David McNarry joined all other DUP and UUP MLAs in voting against.

After the vote, one senior Presbyterian figure has said that MLAs were merely reflecting popular views when they voted to throw out the gay marriage plans.

The Roman Catholic and Anglican churches had each made public statements opposing the motion in advance of Tuesday’s debate, as had the Evangelical Alliance.

Although the Presbyterian Church of Ireland – also opposed to gay marriage – had not issued a similar public statement, it did send e-mails to all Assembly members in the run-up to the vote to remind them of its position and urge them to reject the motion.

And after MLAs the debate, Rev Donald Watts, clerk of the General Assembly, said of the result: “I’m not surprised. I think that the MLAs are simply reflecting the views of this community; of society, if you like.”

In reference to the number of times the same issue has been placed before MLAs, with the same ultimate result each time, he added: “I think in a democratic society members of the legislature can try to change the accepted position. I suppose it is surprising that they are bringing it up with such regularity”.

 

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