Opponents of marriage equality stuck in the past

The defeat of Green MLA Steven Agnew’s Assembly motion in support of equal marriage was disappointing, if not wholly surprising.

Unionist members, who voted against the motion virtually as one, must ask themselves if they want a Northern Ireland for all or the sort of theocratic state based on a particular interpretation of Christianity that their predecessors used to warn existed in the Republic of Ireland.

The debate itself could have made for a good drinking game, with virtually all the old clichés of the anti-equal marriage camp rolled out.

Jim Allister got the ball rolling with the absurd claim that polygamy and other relationships would have to be recognised by law if marriage between gay people is permitted and this was followed by the usual round of red herrings about marriage as an unchanging, Christian institution (despite marriage predating Christianity by many centuries) and protecting the rights of churches.

No one has ever, to my knowledge, argued that any church should be forced to marry gay people. Rather, introduction of equal marriage might be compared to opening up a free market in religion, with those who find their own church is not as progressive as they might like having the option of switching to another more in keeping with their own views.

In a sometimes ill tempered debate, one of the few members to emerge with his reputation enhanced was Basil McCrea, who deserves enormous credit for his strident defence of a motion only two of his fellow unionists supported.

On the other hand, it was disappointing to see a member of a supposedly liberal party, Trevor Lunn, among the noes, with some of his colleagues apparently not considering the issue deserving of their time.

Video: Steven Agnew talks equal marriage

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About msimpsongpni

Mark Simpson is Environment spokesperson for the Green Party in Northern Ireland and Green Party coordinator in the Balmoral electoral area, Belfast.
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