Greens defend plan for same-sex civil unions


THE GREEN Party and gay rights organisations have defended plans to introduce civil partnerships for same-sex couples following criticism of the move by Cardinal Seán Brady at the weekend.

Addressing the congregation at St John’s Cathedral in Limerick on Saturday, Dr Brady said civil partnerships would undermine the institution of marriage and the family.

He said marriage between a man and a woman “will always remain the best environment in which to raise children”. In addition, provisions allowing for the prosecution of registrars who refuse to officiate at same-sex partnerships represented an “alarming attack on the fundamental principle of freedom of religion and conscience”.

Defending plans for civil partnerships, Ciarán Cuffe TD of the Green Party – which played a key role in lobbying for the legislation – said he was saddened at the cardinal’s remarks.

“They do little to promote a culture of greater tolerance and inclusiveness in society. The civil partnership legislation offers security and stability for people who love one another and clearly upholds the common good,” Mr Cuffe said.

Kieran Rose of the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (Glen) said it was clear there was a democratic consensus for civil partnerships, which followed extensive national dialogue and consultation.

“The cardinal is, of course, entitled to an opinion on civil partnership and is entitled to express it. Churches too are entitled to marry whom they wish in their churches,” he said.

“However, civil marriage and civil partnership are to do with the State. The State, through civil partnership, is for the first time providing recognition and comprehensive protections for lesbian and gay couples,” Mr Rose continued.

He said the legislation would address many urgent and pressing issues that thousands of lesbian and gay couples face now, such as establishing a legal status for same-sex relationships and a comprehensive set of rights, protections and enforceable obligations on the part of civil partners.

Changing Attitude Ireland, an organisation that describes itself as an all-Ireland Christian pro-gay group, said the introduction of similar legislation in the North three years ago had helped strengthen families and the institution of marriage.

Rev Mervyn Kingston, a Church of Ireland clergyman and secretary of the organisation, said the legislation has been available in the cardinal’s diocese of Armagh and “the sky has not fallen in”.

But there was support for the cardinal’s remarks from the Iona Institute, a “pro-marriage, pro-religion organisation”.

Dr John Murray, a spokesman for the group, said he strongly welcomed Cardinal Brady’s statement and insisted that the legislation was “very bad social policy”.

“We do not oppose giving certain rights to same-sex couples, as well as other individuals in a caring, dependent relationship. However, heterosexual and homosexual couples cannot be equated and it makes no sense to treat them in the same way, as the Government is basically proposing,” he said.