Gay rights activist: NI lacks free speech protections for same-sex marriage

A veteran gay rights activist has criticised the Government over a lack of free speech protections ahead of the introduction of same-sex marriage.

Jeffrey Dudgeon accused the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) of being ‘deceptive’ by promising a consultation on religious ceremonies but ignoring the need for wider safeguards.

The Government has given no reassurances that the protections available to the public in Great Britain will apply when the law changes in January.

Conscience

When same-sex marriage was introduced in other parts of the UK, protections were put in place to allow for conscientious objections.

But the NIO, which has pledged to consult on the change, has so far declined to say whether it will consider similar protections for the Province.

Sammy Wilson, MP for East Antrim since 2005, said: “Those who pushed for the imposition of changes on abortion and same sex marriage did so claiming that they wished to bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the United Kingdom.

“The same protections therefore should be available in Northern Ireland as in the rest of the UK. This is something which must be taken forward by an incoming government.”

Risk

Colin Hart, Director of The Christian Institute, warned that “when same-sex marriage registration starts on 13 January another set of robust protections will be needed to protect those in Northern Irish society who disagree with same-sex marriage”.

Last week, The Christian Institute announced the possibility of legal action in defence of religious freedom.

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