DUP: our talks position on same-sex marriage hasn’t changed

Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International
Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International

The DUP has insisted that it is standing by its policy to defend the current definition of marriage in talks with Sinn Fein.

There has been widespread speculation that the DUP could be considering some face-saving means by which it could allow the Assembly to pass legislation for same-sex marriage.

Some of the speculation circulating is that a private members bill for same-sex marriage could be brought forward – meaning the Executive would not have to support it – and then some means could be found by which the DUP would avoid raising a petition of concern (PoC) to veto it.

The Assembly has voted four times against same-sex marriage but on the fifth a majority supported change 53-52, and it was then blocked with a petition of concern.

However, a DUP spokesman insisted that it was still standing by its policy on marriage in current talks.

“The DUP has a mandated policy to defend the current definition of marriage,” he told the News Letter. “We stand by that commitment.”

The DUP said this would also apply to any attempt to introduce the measure via Westminster.

Separately, a senior talks source noted that the matter is devolved. If there is an Assembly, it will deal with it and any bill will not come from the Executive as the DUP will not support it, he said.

“If a private members bill was to be tabled [instead] then the DUP would work to protect the current definition of marriage and would try to utilise the petition of concern to do so,” he said.

However, another source close to DUP members told the News Letter that a number of leading DUP figures are keen to ensure a PoC is not used against same-sex marriage. “They will encounter opposition though,” he added.

Signatures from 30 MLAs are required for a PoC and the DUP now has only 28. However, it is understood a PoC would still be possible with TUV and UUP support.

Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International said he and others met recently with the DUP about the issue.

The DUP did not volunteer any definite position on whether it would use a PoC or whether it would support reform of it either, he said. There has been pressure to reform the measure so it would focus only narrowly on party political issues.

But Mr Corrigan does not accept that the DUP’s failure to articulate clear positions to him suggests the party is becoming more open minded and considering options.

“If that was the case we would have been encouraged with our meeting with them,” he said.