Catholic bishops of Northern Ireland want legal protection for objectors of same-sex marriages

They say their call is in keeping "with the fundamental right to freedom of religion and conscience."

A priest performs a marriage ceremony and two men in grey suits stand before him holding a ring. none of their heads are visible

Catholic bishops of Northern Ireland have called for legal protection to ensure that objectors to same-sex marriage can not be asked “to provide marriage preparation, relationship counselling or other marriage related services in respect of those contracting same-sex marriage, should they believe it is inconsistent with their religious belief to do so.”

They further said that objectors should not be “discriminated against in access to public funds because of their beliefs in respect of same-sex marriage.”

The calls were in response to the ongoing Northern Ireland Office Consultation in regard to the state of play for same-sex couples wishing to be married in a church ceremony. The bishops were adamant that churches should not be forced to have any involvement in same-sex marriages and welcomed proposed equality law protections suggesting that it would not be considered unlawful discrimination. They further welcomed a proposed amendment which suggests that criticising same-sex marriage would not be an offence.

The five Catholic bishops hail from the Armagh, Clogher, Derry and Down areas of Northern Ireland.

In similar news, at the end of January, Rev Chris Hudson, the minister of All Souls Church, Belfast – a member of the Non-Subscribing Church of Ireland – said his counterparts in the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland can already officiate same-sex weddings and he now wants the same freedom of religion in Northern Ireland.

“There should be legally-protected freedom of religion for those churches who want to offer weddings to same-sex couples, as well as to those who do not wish to provide this service to their LGBT+ believers.

“However, currently in Northern Ireland, that is a legal right which is currently denied to churches, ministers like me and same-sex couples of faith, who want to conduct their wedding in a religious setting. The Government must address this clear inequality without further delay.”

The first same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland took place on February 11 this year when Robyn Peoples and Sharni Edwards tied the knot in a landmark moment for the LGBT+ community.

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