Catholic bishops urge rejection of Sinn Féin Stormont motion on same-sex marriage

Third attempt in 18 months to change law likely to be defeated

 The Catholic bishops of Northern Ireland, including Cardinal Seán Brady, have written to the North’s Assembly members urging them to reject a Sinn Féin motion calling for the legalisation of gay marriage. Photograph: David Sleator

The Catholic bishops of Northern Ireland, including Cardinal Seán Brady, have written to the North’s Assembly members urging them to reject a Sinn Féin motion calling for the legalisation of gay marriage. Photograph: David Sleator

 


The Catholic bishops of Northern Ireland, including Cardinal Seán Brady, have written an open letter to the North’s Assembly members urging them to reject a Sinn Féin motion calling for the legalisation of gay marriage.

The letter was issued in advance of a discussion in the Assembly today of the motion from three Sinn Féin Assembly members – Caitríona Ruane, Bronwyn McGahan and Megan Fearon – calling for the introduction of a new law to allow same-sex marriage.

Cardinal Brady and six bishops whose dioceses take in all or parts of Northern Ireland urged the rejection of the motion. They include Bishop of Dromore Dr John McAreavey, who recently won an apology from Sinn Féin for misrepresenting his position on abortion.

In the letter the bishops write that “it is a fact of nature that same-sex unions are fundamentally and objectively different from the complementary sexual union of a woman and a man which is of itself naturally open to life”.

‘Not discrimination’
“It is not discrimination for the state to treat different types of relationship differently. The European Convention on Human Rights does not recognise same-sex ‘marriage’ as a right and the European Courts have consistently upheld the right and freedom of member states not to redefine marriage in this way,” they added. “This is not, therefore, a question of ‘rights’ or ‘equality’ but of recognising the objective difference between these two types of relationship,” they said.

The bishops said that 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”.

‘Building block’
“It is a fundamental building block of society which makes a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the common good. It is, therefore, deserving of special recognition and promotion by the state,” they added.

The Church of Ireland also issued a statement yesterday ahead of the debate saying it upheld its “teaching that marriage is part of God’s creation and a holy mystery in which one man and one woman become one flesh”.

It added: “The Church of Ireland affirms, according to Our Lord’s teaching that marriage is in its purpose a union permanent and life-long, for better or worse, till death do them part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side . . . The Church of Ireland recognises for itself and of itself, no other understanding of marriage.”

This is the third time since October 2012 that Sinn Féin has introduced same-sex marriage motions. The previous two were defeated. The DUP has tabled a petition of concern in the Assembly, which gives it a veto that would ensure the motion, even if carried by majority vote, could not be implemented.