Church of Ireland won’t take stance on gay marriage vote: rector

The Republic holds a referendum on same-sex marriage in May
The Republic holds a referendum on same-sex marriage in May

A Church of Ireland rector in Dublin has said the church will be encouraging its members to vote in the Republic’s forthcoming referendum on same-sex marriage – but will not tell them to vote against the proposed change.

The Reverend Gillian Whartan said within the Church of Ireland “there is a huge variety of opinion with regards to this issue”.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster’s Sunday Sequence programme yesterday, she said: “There are children I know being brought up by people of the same gender in a very stable and loving environment.”

She added: “I don’t think I can say looking at a variety of relationships that I am aware of, that one is better than the other, but I think the quality of the relationship is important.”

Rev Whartan said that in 2012 the CoI began a listening process involving the General Synod, the decision-making body of the church.

She said a motion was passed in 2012 where there was a recognition that the church affirmed the traditional view of marriage, but in the motion there was the recognition of the need “to love thy neighbour as thyself (as being) is absolutely paramount and that everyone in the church is welcome and there should be no distinction of welcome”.

A select committee on human sexuality in the context of Christian belief was set up 2013 and a report will be released in May 2015.

Also speaking on Sunday Sequence, Belfast Unitarian minister the Rev Chris Hudson said he “very much welcomed the referendum” in the Republic.

He said it “is interesting that if it is carried in the Republic of Ireland that Northern Ireland will be the only jurisdiction within Britain and Ireland that won’t provide marriage equality to those of same-sex relationships”.

He added: “I hope wisdom will prevail eventually in Northern Ireland and that will change.”

The wording of the proposed reform was agreed by government ministers at a special cabinet meeting with Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald saying that voters were being given an option of removing impediments to marriage for gay people.

“The issue is one of equality, marriage equality. It is about removing the barriers which deny some couples the chance of marrying and of having relationships that are constitutionally protected,” she said.

If the proposal is passed it will be the 34th amendment to the Constitution.

It says: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”

Gay people in the Rpublic can now enter into civil partnership, not a full marriage commitment.