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TUV want guidance on rights of registrars to refuse to conduct same-sex marriage ceremonies

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A Co Antrim council is still seeking guidance on the "rights" of registrars to refuse to carry out same-sex marriages - even though its registrars have no concerns

A Co Antrim council is still seeking guidance on the "rights" of registrars to refuse to carry out same-sex marriages - even though its registrars have no concerns

A Co Antrim council is still seeking guidance on the "rights" of registrars to refuse to carry out same-sex marriages - even though its registrars have no concerns

A Co Antrim council is still seeking guidance on the "rights" of registrars to refuse to carry out same-sex marriages - even though its registrars have no concerns.

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has been advised it is entitled to "oblige its registrars to perform same-sex marriages".

After seeking legal advice, the council was also told it "would not be discriminating against staff by asking them to perform this role".

The advice concluded the new regulations "did not provide exception for registrars to refuse to marry same-sex couples if they had objections to doing so".

At a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Council in Ballymena on Monday, TUV councillor Timothy Gaston reiterated an earlier proposal that council write to Stormont's Department of Finance - which deals with marriages - requesting guidance.

However, the council's chief executive Anne Donaghy said: "I can assure you that the registrars are being supported fully and are content with the position. The concern of members is now resolved."

She agreed to write to the minister but insisted there is "no issue to be resolved".

The council had already agreed at an earlier meeting to seek the guidance of Stormont's Department of Finance and committee to seek their "thoughts regarding models adopted in different countries, such as Australia".

In a previous debate behind closed doors, Mr Gaston proposed, and DUP councillor Andrew Clarke seconded, that council opts to give registrars free choice.

Mr Clarke has said he hoped a "conscience clause" could be introduced into the same-sex marriage legislation.

"I would certainly be in favour of an approach that is tolerant to everybody, as there is no provision for conscience," he said.

"I think we need to be sympathetic to members of staff who have worked here for a long time and are being asked to do something different.

"I think these are the sort of problems which arise when legislation is forced through Parliament in 15 minutes."

Last month, the first same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland took place between Robyn Peoples, from Belfast, and Sharni Edwards, from Brighton, at a ceremony in a hotel in Carrickfergus.

Belfast Telegraph