When marriage was redefined in the rest of the UK, this was done so in the face of overwhelming public opposition. But at least it was done following detailed consideration over many months.
That time and public pressure ensured there were some free speech safeguards. What MPs have done now offers little or nothing in that respect.
If this legislation is to go ahead then parallels to the protections that exist in the rest of the UK must apply to NI.
The law in England and Wales says that churches and ministers ‘cannot be compelled by any means’ to perform a same-sex wedding. The Department for Education issued guidance that helped to protect teachers who dissent from supporting same-sex marriage.
More widely, Public Order legislation allows the freedom to express views without fear of prosecution. Even with these protections in place we have seen street preachers arrested for expressing a Biblical view on same-sex relationships and teachers worried for their careers as they are pressed for their personal views by hostile Ofsted inspectors.
And the all too recent experience of social work student Felix Ngole should certainly give them pause for thought (read News Letter coverage of that case here).
Without these protections what can the thousands of people in NI who oppose same-sex marriage expect?
Colin Hart, Director, Christian Institute