Belfast Telegraph

Friday 18 April 2014

Gay marriage plans unlikely to affect Northern Ireland

Jeffrey Donaldson

Moves by Westminster to legalise gay marriage have little chance of being repeated in Northern Ireland, MPs said.

Ministers are this week pressing ahead with plans to allow churches to host same-sex ceremonies — to the fury of some Tory backbenchers.

The move will cover England and Wales, and it will be up to the devolved nations to follow suit if they wish, the Government said.

The DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson said: “Our view would be that there certainly would not be a majority in favour in Northern Ireland of extending these powers to the province, and there is certainly no intention to legislate for this.” He added: “We have enough votes in the Assembly to veto it anyway.”

Nonetheless, local MPs have been involved in the debate, which pits David Cameron, the Liberal Democrats and Labour against a number of Tory MPs who do not accept the changes. They fear that churches will be forced to carry out ceremonies against their will, and under the threat of legal action.

DUP MP Ian Paisley jnr called for an exemption from European human rights legislation.

Alliance MP Naomi Long said she backed the right of gay people to marry in churches provided the churches are protected in law from refusing. But she conceded that the debate would be unlikely to directly affect Northern Ireland.

Ms Long said: “I suspect that until there's a sea change in the views of political representatives, there is unlikely to be a change.”

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