Will traditional marriage supporters in Northern Ireland be protected?

Nov 21, 2019 by

from Colin Hart, Coalition for Marriage:

The Northern Ireland Office (NIO) is taking a very narrow approach to providing legal safeguards when same-sex marriage is introduced in the Province from 13 January.

Government ministers have promised a consultation. But the focus will be on same-sex marriages by religious officiants, which is to be introduced at a later date. The consultation will consider protections for the vast majority of churches that don’t want to be involved in same-sex marriages. But the NIO has said nothing about the wider safeguards for individuals that apply in Great Britain.

When same-sex marriage was introduced in the rest of the UK in 2013-14, extensive safeguards were included to protect freedom of conscience for those who disagreed. It was thanks to C4M’s work that these safeguards were included.

They protect teachers and public sector workers, school children, churches, religious charities, and freedom of speech.

However, the new legislation requiring the Government to introduce same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland by 13 January 2020 does not provide for any of these. This controversial imposition of same-sex marriage on the Province was rushed through Parliament in a matter of hours in July, without any public consultation. Now it looks like essential safeguards will be missing.

The conscience protections in Northern Ireland must not be weaker than in the rest of the UK. C4M will be campaigning on this and letting NI supporters know what they can do.

Some of the safeguards won for England, Wales and Scotland

  1. The Equality and Human Rights Commission Guidance
    1. for employers : “Employees are free to hold whatever belief they choose, whether religious or philosophical, on same-sex relationships and on marriage of same-sex couples; employers cannot interfere with this right” (page 2)
    2. for schools : “No school, or individual teacher, is under a duty to support, promote or endorse marriage of same-sex couples” (page 2)
  2. Public order legislation in England and Wales was amended to make clear that it is perfectly acceptable to criticise same-sex marriage.
  3. Four separate legal safeguards, the ‘quad lock’, were put in place to protect churches from having to do a same-sex marriage against their will.
  4. Religious organisations, or those promoting traditional marriage, can insist that their key staff may not enter into a same-sex marriage.

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