Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Marriage debate Arlene must brush up on facts of life

Arlene Foster
Arlene Foster

The problem with conviction politicians is that they don't feel the need to check the facts.

On Spotlight Special's Question time, Arlene Foster, the Enterprise Minister, explained how her Anglican beliefs informed her politics and held forth on gay marriage on that basis. Unfortunately for Arlene, she was wrong on two important points.

She argued that gay people in civil partnerships in Northern Ireland have the same practical rights as married couples, but that just isn't so.

A person in a civil partnership here can't adopt children, though they can in England. She then maintained that clergy could officiate at civil partnerships here and hectored Stephen Agnew of the Greens when he told her it was illegal.

He was right, but she insisted that it was just a Church rule. We all make mistakes, but it is disturbing that legislators feel able to fly by the seats of their pants on such issues.

It puts a question mark over the quality of consideration of such issues around the Executive table. It is particularly disturbing because one denomination, the Non-Subscribing Presbyterians, is considering a test case on the issue once gay marriage goes through in Britain.

Now that Ms Foster knows the facts, she should head that one off at the pass and not leave the taxpayer to pick up the tab for a legal case.

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