Belfast Telegraph

Stance on gay union not archaic

By Peter Lynas

Northern Ireland is in the company of more than 170 countries around the world in recognising marriage as that between a man and a woman; countries like Germany, Italy, Japan and Australia.

This point is worth re-stating, as we all too often read people putting Northern Ireland down and referring to it as a "discriminatory backwater". Martin McGuinness has suggested a referendum to settle the issue. It's tempting and I suspect the No side would win. But I'm not convinced it would be the best way forward.

Some in the LGBT community are also hesitant about a referendum, knowing it would be close, acrimonious and defeat would close the issue down for a generation. The Irish referendum was heavily influenced by foreign money that would have led to an outcry on any other issue.

Dissent from the new social orthodoxy was not tolerated as the Yes side was supported by all the main political parties, most of the media and many big businesses.

Opponents were demonised and written off as bigots and homophobes while pre-referendum polls showing the Yes side on 80% were well wide of the mark.

If the issue is equality, then let's sort out the civil partnership legislation. If the issue is love, why is there no campaign for any number and combination of people who love each other to be allowed to marry. And since when did love care what the state said anyway?

If the issue is freedom and democracy then let's respect the four Stormont votes supporting traditional marriage. If the issue is rights, let's remember there is no European Convention right to same-sex marriage.

The debate that preceded the Irish referendum was bitter and healing will take time. It has also left the 38% who voted No disenfranchised with virtually no political representation. There is a danger of equality being reduced to same-sex marriage. Equality, freedom and justice are rich ideas affecting the poor and the elderly, recent immigrants and unborn children. They require us to give generously and act hospitably; to pass world-leading anti-human trafficking laws and run foodbanks. We don't need a referendum - we need to build a better society.

  • Peter Lynas is Northern Ireland director of the Evangelical Alliance

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