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DUP uses veto to block NI gay marriage motion

By Sarah Mac Donald - 03 November, 2015

Northern bishops highlight how motion was "completely silent" on the "vital issue" of respect for individual religious conscience and protections for Churches.

stormontBy a majority of 53 to 52 members, Northern Ireland’s Assembly voted in favour of same-sex marriage for the first time on Monday but the law will not change due to the DUP’s use of a special veto.

A petition of concern was tabled by the DUP at the outset of the debate on gay marriage.

This blocks the proposal unless it achieves the support of a sufficient number of both unionist and nationalist MLAs.

The overall majority who backed the motion was 50.5%. However, a majority of unionists voted against it while a majority of nationalists backed it.

The motion was brought forward by the SDLP and Sinn Féin.

Ahead of the vote on Monday, the Catholic bishops of Northern Ireland wrote to MLAs raising a number of concerns over the debate on same sex marriage.

In their letter, Archbishop Eamon Martin, and Bishops Anthony Farquhar, John McAreavey, Liam MacDaid, Donal McKeown and Noël Treanor said that as pastors and teachers they had a responsibility to offer guidance to members of the Church and to participate with other citizens in debating the values and laws that ensure the authentic common good of society.

They raised a number of concerns around the proposed introduction of gay marriage noting that the motion provided no detail of the scale or scope of the legislation being proposed.

“It is also completely silent on the vital issue of respect for individual religious conscience and protections for Churches and other religious groups,” the bishops warned and added that those who voted in favour of the motion had no way of knowing what the full consequences of such a vote would be.

They also asked what the impact would be for services provided by Churches and other faith groups that offer vital support to marriages and families?

“The failure of legislators to provide any form of protection for Catholic Church-related adoption agencies that have had to close in recent years is a stark warning to all who value the wide range of social and pastoral services that Churches provide,” the bishops stated.

They said the motion being debated by the Assembly failed completely to protect the future of these services and their right to operate within the religious ethos from which they were founded and continue to provide a valued service to communities.

“We ask you especially as a legislator to keep the rights and welfare of children to the forefront of your considerations when voting on the forthcoming motion,” the bishops said in their letter to legislators.

Elsewhere in their open letter, the Northern bishops said religious and non-religious people alike have long acknowledged and know from their experience that the family, based on the marriage of a woman and a man, “is the best and ideal place for children”.

Highlighting that the proposed motion effectively says to parents, children and society that the State should not, and will not, promote any normative or ideal family environment for raising children, the bishops stated, “It therefore implies that the biological bond and natural ties between a child and its mother and father have no intrinsic value for the child or for society.”

“As Pope Francis stated recently, ‘we must reaffirm the right of children to grow up in a family with a father and a mother capable of creating a suitable environment for the child’s development and emotional maturity’.”

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