Same-sex marriage: DUP calls for extra protection for Christians who do not want to be involved in gay weddings

A gay pride parade marcher in Belfast city centre bears a sign condemning traditionalist ChristiansA gay pride parade marcher in Belfast city centre bears a sign condemning traditionalist Christians
A gay pride parade marcher in Belfast city centre bears a sign condemning traditionalist Christians | Other 3rd Party
The DUP has declared current plans for protecting people from being coerced into participating in gay weddings “do not go far enough”.

The remarks came in a statement to the News Letter from Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, the party’s chief whip in Westminster, following the closure on Sunday of a government consultation into the rules around gay marriage.

MPs in Westminster made gay marriage law in Northern Ireland from January 13, but issues like the right to opt-out for clergy still remains to be sorted out – so the consultation asked the public for its views on this.

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However, the government does not envision any such protections for Christian businesses like florists or photographers, or for civil registrars.

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the consultation exercise was an afterthoughtSir Jeffrey Donaldson said the consultation exercise was an afterthought
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the consultation exercise was an afterthought

They will not be able to object to participating in a gay wedding on religious grounds under the planned rules.

Lagan Valley MP Sir Jeffrey said: “The DUP maintains its longstanding view of traditional marriage as being between one man and one woman. We believe the decision by cross-bench MPs at Westminster to legislate in this area was wrong in principle and deficient in due process. Such a breach of the purposes of devolution is of deep concern with lasting consequences.

“This consultation exercise comes as an afterthought. Those living in communities across Northern Ireland who fundamentally disagree with the legislation deserved to be consulted in a meaningful way before it was implemented. Sadly that has not been the case.

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“Whilst we can support the proposal to exempt churches and other religious bodies from requirements to provide, arrange, facilitate, participate in or solemnise a same-sex marriage, they do not extend far enough.

“Northern Ireland’s unique social and religious fabric must be accounted by protections that are not just comparable to provision in England and Wales but enhanced.

“That means also pursuing reasonable protections for people such as civil registrars and others who have a high level of involvement in local marriages and stand to be disproportionately impacted by the change in law.

“We are working with a wide range of stakeholders to achieve an outcome that ensures churches are protected and people with sincerely held beliefs are not forced into acting against those beliefs.

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“No one should be discriminated against in any way and we must find a way to accommodate in society rather than looking for ways to litigate against each other.”

However, his statement stopped short of saying the DUP will bring a “conscience clause” bill before the Assembly (akin to the one MLA Paul Givan attempted to introduce in 2014, which never proceeded through the Assembly).

It is understood that it was not moved, after it became evident it would not win sufficient support in the chamber.