The Government has been warned that councils in Northern Ireland are being left in a “legal and political quagmire” by plans to impose same-sex marriage early next year.
Following a vote by Westminster politicians, the law is set to change on 13 January, with the first ceremonies to take place on Valentine’s Day.
However, no proper safeguards have been put forward to protect the free speech and religious liberty of those who object to same-sex marriage.
Churches have urged councils to ensure there are legal protections for staff who object to same-sex marriage.
But while the Government says it will consult on ceremonies for religious same-sex weddings, no consideration has been given to civil weddings being carried out by council employees.
This means that registrars could be forced to carry out same-sex ceremonies even if they conscientiously object.
The Belfast News Letter reported that some councils are seeking legal advice on how to accommodate their own employees while avoiding discrimination against those who want a same-sex wedding.
A council insider told the News Letter: “This could be a potential legal and political quagmire for councils. The legislation is being imposed on us and, as it stands, it will force registrars to carry out marriages that some are ethically opposed to.
“There has been a lot of anger and disquiet from elected officials that this is being forced on us.”