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Gay marriage vote 'not the answer'

Published 29/04/2015

The director the Rainbow Project has hit out at the Northern Ireland Assembly over the issue of same-sex marriage
The director the Rainbow Project has hit out at the Northern Ireland Assembly over the issue of same-sex marriage

Northern Ireland's largest gay and lesbian support organisation has said a referendum on marriage equality is not the answer.

The DUP has rejected a proposal for a poll from Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness. The Democratic Unionists defeated a republican motion to recognise same sex partnerships at the devolved Assembly earlier this week.

David Cameron and Nick Clegg have distanced themselves from some of the party's views on gay rights and the DUP's Stormont health minister Jim Wells announced his resignation on Monday after he said a child brought up in a homosexual relationship was far more likely to be abused and neglected.

John O'Doherty, director of the Rainbow Project, said: "We must remember that a referendum in the UK has no binding legal effect.

"Even if the public were to vote in favour of marriage equality, the Assembly would have to pass enabling legislation and as we have seen this week, the Assembly is incapable of making this necessary legal change."

The DUP could win up to 10 seats following the General Election and their votes may be sought after by any coalition in a hung parliament.

Leader Peter Robinson has said the party would not be recognising the marriage of a gay couple but said it was catered for within the scope of the existing law by way of a civil partnership.

A referendum on the issue is due in the Republic of Ireland within days.

Mr O'Doherty added: " I think that everyone in our community is pleased to see the strides taken towards equal marriage in the south, although we know a yes vote cannot be taken for granted.

"We are not afraid of a referendum on marriage equality in Northern Ireland and numerous polls have shown that a majority of the population is in favour of recognising same-sex marriages."

He said: " It is clear to us, that without a legislative remedy to this on-going injustice, the only option is for the courts to strike down the irrational and illogical patchwork of marriage laws across the UK.

"There are same-sex couples in Northern Ireland who are married. They were lawfully married in the UK and they remain lawfully married.

"By saying that someone stops being married when they come home to Northern Ireland, the state is engaging in unlawful discrimination and this must be corrected."

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt supported a referendum in principle.

"If we are going to ask the people to go to the trouble of voting on a specific issue, why not take the opportunity to ask a number of questions? Do the people endorse those changes to the Belfast Agreement? Do they want a single education system? Do they want devolution crashed rather than resolve the impasse on welfare reform?

"Do they want an Official Opposition at Stormont, which, by the way, is already a failure in terms of the Stormont House Agreement, given the Agreement states that the issue of opposition should have been resolved by the end of March.

"Beyond that, if we wish to focus on public policy matters, what about abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty?

"Under those circumstances, I would be content that we ask the people directly for their views on same sex marriage."

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