30/04/2013

Gay Marriage Motion Defeated

A Sinn Féin motion to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland has been defeated.

Bronwyn McGahan had proposed the motion, but it was defeated in the Assembly by 53 votes to 42.

50 unionist MLAs and three members of the Alliance voted against, while all 37 nationalists and three unionists voted in favour.

An Alliance Party amendment which sought to guarantee the freedom of churches to practise and define marriage as they choose was also defeated.

Sinn Féin MLA Caitríona Ruane said she was disappointed that the Assembly had "missed an opportunity to bring equality to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community on the issue of marriage."

She said: "The issue of marriage equality does not threaten anybody nor does to attack the sacrament of marriage in the various religious institutions but rather is more about equality and rights.

"Two gay people should have the same rights in marriage as currently held by heterosexual couples. This was supported overwhelmingly in the recent constitutional convention held in Dublin.

"The opposition to the marriage equality motion was predictable from the fundamentalists who have attempted to deny equality to people throughout their political life."

Justice Minister and Alliance leader David Ford said: "The Alliance Party proposed an amendment supporting equal civil marriage but which also acknowledged the need for constructive and respectful dialogue between elected representatives and all aspects of civic society. We do not need grandstanding on this issue, but instead engagement and mutual respect.

"Our amendment also called for robust legislative protections for faith groups and religious celebrants. These groups should not be forced to carry out such ceremonies or have them carried out on their premises without their permission.”

SDLP Equality spokesperson Colum Eastwood said: "It is not about the imposition or forcing of social mores. It is not a case of a shotgun marriage between theological tradition and ever-changing social and societal compositions. Each has a place of respect and the right of respect. I am not of the belief that the existence of one set of societal values or compositions corrodes the strength, status or symbol of any other.

"In essence, the extension of the statutory recognition of marriage to same-sex couples is an affirmation of the enduring importance of marriage. The sinews of bondage between two people, encased and sustained by the growing nature of love, is a value worthy of extension to those who would choose it. Heterosexual marriage embodies those values; so too does same-sex marriage."

But the Democratic Unionist Party opposed the motion from the off set.

DUP Chief Whip Peter Weir welcomed the news.

He said: "Sinn Féin was clearly more interested in trying to stir up antagonism within the Assembly chamber than in debating the definition of marriage.

"Over two separate Assembly debates there have been effectively three different questions asked in relation to same sex marriage and each one of those have been rejected by an overall majority of MLAs. The DUP was right to put down a petition of concern against this motion which no major party included within their manifesto. However, the petition of concern was not even necessary as the motion was defeated by an overall majority."

(IT/CD)

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