Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Presbyterian Church calls for a 'no' vote on gay marriage

The Presbyterian Church has urged the Assembly not to “demolish a fundamental building block of society” by voting in support of gay marriage at Stormont today.

The church has written to all MLAs outlining its opposition to any changes to marriage legislation in Northern Ireland following the motion tabled by Sinn Fein.

Since 2005 it has been possible to enter into a civil partnership in Northern Ireland. But today’s motion — also strongly opposed by the DUP — goes further and calls for same sex couples here to be entitled to have their marriage recognised in the eyes of the law. The Church’s letter was sent from the Presbyterian General Assembly’s church and society committee. It is signed by its co-convenor Dr Norman Hamilton, a former Moderator.

It states the Presbyterian view that the issue is “not merely an issue of conscience for Christian people and Christian churches, but a very significant one for the whole of society”.

The strongly worded letter contends the proposals for gay marriage are “ones which effectively demolish generations and centuries of societal norms established on Judaeo-Christian values. The steady erosion of such values, with minimal debate about the world view replacing them, causes us the very greatest concern.”

It adds: “We would however contend that this is not in fact an issue of equality, as all of the significant legal benefits and rights available through marriage are already available through civil partnership.”

The Church concludes its letter by stating: “It would be entirely inappropriate to demolish a fundamental building block of society, such as the historic view of marriage, when such a step is not actually necessary.”

Sinn Fein said last night marriage equality is “a human rights issue”.

The party’s equality spokesperson, Bronwyn McGahan, said: “Every citizen should enjoy the same rights under State law and that includes those in relation to marriage.

“What churches do is a matter for churches, but the State needs to treat everyone with equality. There have been a succession of similar motions and these are being brought forward because this is a human rights and equality issue.

“LGBT couples should have the same rights as any other citizen on this island.”

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