GREEN Party representatives in Ulster who campaign against gay marriage may be disciplined, the party’s Northern Ireland leader has said.
On Tuesday, the Green Party in England said that one of its councillors in Brighton and Hove, Christina Summers, should be expelled for voting against same-sex marriage at a council meeting.
Ms Summers’ vote – which the devout Christian said was because she was “accountable to God above any political party” – caused fury among many Green Party colleagues and led to an internal inquiry that recommended she be expelled for voting against party policy.
Now the party’s leader in Northern Ireland, North Down MLA Steven Agnew, has said that any of its elected representatives in the Province who vote or campaign against same-sex marriage may be sanctioned.
When asked about Ms Summers’ case, Mr Agnew declined to comment as he had not read the inquiry report into her actions and did not know “the exact nuances of the case”.
But in a statement to the News Letter, he said that the Northern Ireland Green Party – which is separate from, but affiliated to, the Green Party in England and Wales – had unanimously voted at last year’s annual conference to “vigorously campaign and, where possible, vote to extend the right to marry and be legally recognised as such, to same-sex couples”.
Mr Agnew said: “All Green Party candidates in Northern Ireland sign a pledge that if elected they will act in accordance with Green Party policy. Therefore we would expect that person to uphold, represent and support the agreed policy of the Green Party.
“That individual is, of course, free to bring a contrary motion to our next AGM and can campaign among party members to promote their views and ultimately it would be put before the party to decide.
“However, should a member in their capacity as an elected representative of the Green Party in Northern Ireland campaign or vote against a policy democratically agreed by party members, then disciplinary action could be taken.”
Mr Agnew said there were Christian members of the Green Party who were in support of gay marriage and those opposed to it, but insisted that all were “welcome in the party”.
Last year the party had three councillors elected – in North Down, Castlereagh and Down – and Mr Agnew elected to Stormont, the party’s best election result.
The DUP and TUV are opposed to gay marriage. Sinn Fein and the Alliance Party support changing the law to allow for same-sex marriages while the UUP has given members a free vote on the subject as an issue of conscience.
The SDLP will decide its position on the issue later this year.