Friday 16 May 2014

Thank God for Northern Ireland Protestant politicians for defending marriage

Caitriona Ruane (centre in white)
On 29 April, the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont debated a motion by Sinn Féin which called for the recognition of same-sex marriage. Thankfully the motion was defeated by 51 votes to 43. The votes in favour of same-sex marriage came from Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) of Sinn Féin, Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), the Alliance Party and the Green Party, plus two members of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and two members of NI21, a liberal Unionist party . The votes against same-sex marriage came from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and the UUP, plus two Protestant MLAs of the Alliance Party who thus voted against their party's policy. Six SDLP MLAs abstained or were absent. Thus, no Catholic MLA actually voted against same-sex marriage.

Thank God for the leadership of members of the Protestant community in safeguarding families and safeguarding marriage as the permanent exclusive union of a man and a woman. I say that as chief executive of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC), which passed a resolution opposing same-sex marriage legislation on the basis that real marriage between a man and woman has been proved to be protective of unborn children. And I say this too as a Catholic father who is deeply worried about the lack of anything approaching powerful Catholic witness, except on the part of exceptional bishops in Britain and elsewhere, in defence of marriage and the family.

Northern Ireland has now rejected calls for the legalisation of same-sex marriage three times, thanks entirely to its Protestant politicians. The Social Democratic and Labour Party, the principal nationalist party in Northern Ireland, traditionally seen as representing the Catholic community, supports the redefinition of marriage, as does Sinn Féin. The stark Protestant-Catholic divide on this issue clearly reflects a deeper problem within the Catholic world.

Anthony Ozimic, SPUC communications manager, has prepared this most helpful analysis of the Stormont debate last month:
The day before the debate, the Catholic bishops of Northern Ireland published an open letter to the Assembly. They said (inter alia) that the motion :
"misuses the principle of equality. 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."
Caitriona Ruane, the Sinn Féin MLA who moved the motion, attacked
"wild nonsense peddled about incest and polygamy".
However, polygamous unions have already occurred in Massachusetts and Brazil. And some advocates of same-sex marriage also advocate abolishing laws against incest.

Ruane also derided the argument that same-sex marriage threatens family values, claiming that this argument was used to justify the Magdalene laundries and anti-miscegenation laws under the apartheid regime. Ruane is clearly unfamiliar with the concept that that two wrongs don't make a right. Towards the end of the debate, Megan Fearon, another Sinn Féin MLA, confirmed Sinn Féin's contempt for the family, saying:
"The old narrative that a child needs a man and a woman to be raised properly is totally incorrect."
Ruane went on to deride conscience also, saying:
"We are not here to legislate according to our consciences; we are here to legislate on the basis of equality."
I suggest that Ruane familiarise herself with the life of St Thomas More and the importance of the role of conscience for a legislator.

Mervyn Storey, DUP, opposing the motion, said:
"Marriage has only one definition. It is the lifelong commitment between one man and one woman. That has been the accepted position since the dawn of creation. It is a creation institution."
Mr Storey also pointed out that:
"The European Court and other legislators have ruled that same-sex marriage is not a human rights issue."
Importantly, he said:
"During the campaign for civil partnerships, we were told that those partnerships would ensure equal rights in law for same-sex couples and that there would never be any campaign for full marriage. Here we are today"
Danny Kennedy (UUP) said:
"Redefining marriage would have far-reaching consequences for our entire society. Furthermore, I do not believe that there is widespread public support in Northern Ireland for such a proposal."
Chris Lyttle (Alliance Party) implied that retaining legal marriage as a heterosexual institution would be to impose religious belief on the civil law. He said:
"I take very seriously my responsibility as a democratically elected representative to uphold not only the principle of freedom of religion but freedom from religion, and equality before the law for all citizens ... The proposal before us is that state-provided civil marriage be extended to same-sex couples..."
This argument was echoed later by Daithí McKay of Sinn Féin:
"People, of course, have the freedom to disagree with same-sex marriage on the basis of their individual religious views. However, as legislators, we have to legislate for everybody. The legislation we are proposing will not cover religious groups; it is civil marriage ... They say that marriage is sanctity, but marriage is what you make of it. Marriage is unique to each and every one of us. "
Paul Givan (DUP) said:
"The Assembly has voted conclusively on two previous occasions — I trust that it will do so again today — to uphold the institution of marriage as the union between one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. That definition of marriage has been the foundation of our society, predating Governments. However, over time, Governments have recognised that union, because of its undeniable benefits, as opposed to creating the institution ... Marriage being between a man and a woman is not discriminatory; it is the recognition of the natural truths that men and women are different and complementary, and the biological fact that reproduction depends on a man and a woman."
Lord Morrow (DUP) argued that same-sex marriage is about:
"redefining marriage, thereby bringing about a societal change in the understanding of what marriage is. This would be a radical redefinition of society's most fundamental institution and a radical deconstruction of the institution of marriage. The terms "husband" and "wife", and, indeed, "father" and "mother", would become meaningless ... Marriage would be redefined for everyone... That new definition of marriage would become the norm and would be taught in our schools as being the norm, even to young children, thereby interfering with parents' rights to pass on their own values to their children ... Redefining marriage as a genderless institution would mean merging two things that are radically dissimilar under the single word 'marriage'."
Bronwyn McGahan (Sinn Féin) confirmed that her party supports an elastic redefinition of the family:
"All family forms should be given equal respect and value in law. The traditional family form based on marriage should not be given higher status in law or practice than any other family form. Law and social policy should recognise the diversity of family life in Ireland. All families, including unmarried families, have the same rights to respect, care, support, protection and recognition."
Like Caitriona Ruane, Colum Eastwood (SDLP) tried to enlist past controversies in a fight against today's upholding of natural marriage in law:
"Marriage is an institution that has evolved over time. One hundred and fifty years ago, Catholics and Protestants in Ireland could not be married at all; now they can. Marriage used to be a property transaction rather than an institution in which two people loved each other and wanted to commit to each other. It used to be the case that, if a man was accused of rape, it would be all right if the victim was his wife. That is how far we have come in society. Adultery used to be a criminal offence. Divorce in Ireland was not legal."
Basil McCrea (NI21) echoed Caitriona Ruane's attack on conscience:
"I think that it is really wrong that we allow personal morals to influence what should be a legislative assembly. I do not think that this should be a free vote. I think that it should be a proper whipped vote..."
Simon Hamilton (DUP), the Minister of Finance and Personnel, pointed out that protections for clergy against same-sex marriage:
"do not protect the religious beliefs of others, such as teachers or registrars, and it is entirely possible that faith organisations in Great Britain will be precluded from accessing public funding, services or public buildings because they object to same-sex marriage."
Megan Fearon (Sinn Féin) attacked:
"hetero-normativity...and distinct gender roles"
and made the flamboyant claim that:
"The battle for LGBT rights is the equivalent of the civil rights movement for my generation".
Thankfully the majority of Unionist MLAs were not fooled by such false rhetoric coming from the Marxist revolutionaries of Sinn Féin, and the motion was defeated.
Thanks Anthony. As a footnote, I would just add this: At one point in the debate Michael Copeland, one of the two Ulster Unionists who supported the motion said:
"I do not consider myself to be a worthy person to sit in judgement, moral or otherwise, on the emotions of other human beings."
This is a mantra being increasingly echoed, in all kinds of inappropriate contexts, around the world.

Judging is what legislators do for a living. They judge what is for the common good of humanity – beginning with the common good of the family. As article 16 (3) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
“The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.”
Michael Copeland is judging. He is judging that same-sex marriage serves the good of society – despite overwhelming empirical evidence to the contrary.

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