Ian Paisley must be rolling over in his grave. Wait, what? He’s still alive? Well, something happened in Northern Ireland that has to end up being the most unexpected event in the short history of the Stormont Assembly. The Ulster Unionists and the Democratic Unionists sided with the Roman Catholic Church to block a marriage equality bill pushed by Sinn Fein, the SDLP, Alliance and the Green Party.
The UUP and DUP have been strong opponents of Catholicism for quite some time.
The bill’s defeat likely means that the ban on same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland will be challenged in the British and European courts, something that Amnesty International warned about.
Sinn Fein assembly member Browyn McGahan stated that “MLAs, regardless of religious belief, represent every section of our community, including our LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) members and this motion is about ensuring marriage equality for everyone regardless of their sexual orientation.”
Sinn Fein Assembly member Caitriona Ruane stated “Attitudes in Ireland are changing because people do not want to see people discriminated against. The gay community has said enough is enough. They are standing up for themselves and their communities.”
The Alliance Party proposed an amendment to the bill that would have clarified the protections for religious organizations and groups, but it was defeated. Alliance Party leader David Ford said of that amendment and the need for it “Equal marriage is a matter of great importance to many in our community, to many citizens who have a legitimate expectation that they will be treated equally by the state, but I also acknowledge that it’s an issue of great sensitivity and of huge significance for a number of religious denominations and other faith groups.”
She also pointed to the suicides that have occurred because of taunts and homophobia “If they don’t have an alternative voice to the vitriolic gay-bashing they will internalise it.”
The UUP and DUP were petitioned by both Protestant churches and the Catholic Church to oppose the bill. Traditionally, Sinn Fein sided with the Catholic Church.
The LGBT Christian lobby group Changing Attitudes condemned the Unionists’ vote. Church of Ireland minister Canon Charles Kenny, the secretary for the group, stated “The year is drawing nearer when the love and justice expressed in the gospels will win out and sweep away the faith-based prejudice against gay and lesbian couples.”
In total, 95 members of the Assembly voted. Of those, 42 voted yes and 53 voted no. DUP finance minister Sammy Wilson defended his party’s vote against. Wilson stated “This is not an issue of equality, it is an issue of redefining marriage as it has always been understood. Once there’s a change in the legal definition of marriage then those who take up contrary views will find themselves up against the law – their rights will be infringed.”
Which is pretty much the propaganda pushed by the anti-gay groups.