Police neutrality is being questioned after it was revealed officers will march at Belfast’s gay pride event in uniform for the first time.
Tomorrow, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) will join with others in the event which has the slogan: “Demand Change”.
Marriage remains between one man and one woman in Northern Ireland, but there has been sustained pressure to redefine it.
UPDATE: The UK Government has approved the flying of the LGBT flag at Stormont House – an official building on the grounds of the Northern Ireland Assembly – to mark the pride march.
Ashers Baking Company
The Christian Institute said political campaigns should not receive backing from the police.
Belfast’s “Pride Festival” also has the support of the Equality Commission, which took legal action against Ashers Baking Company after it declined to decorate a cake with a pro-gay marriage campaign slogan.
Writing in the official publication for the event, the Chair of Belfast Pride says the LGBT voice must be heard on issues like “Fertility Rights, Marriage Equality and Gender Recognition Rights”.
Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris told the BBC the police are “a politically neutral organisation”.
He said police officers will march in their uniform to show opposition to hate crime and make a point about the inclusivity of the PSNI.
But Callum Webster, The Christian Institute’s Northern Ireland Officer, challenged the police’s assertions.
“The Police Service of Northern Ireland has a duty to act with impartiality at all times, and to be seen to act impartially.
“The parade is a contentious event promoting radical changes to the law, changes which run contrary to the beliefs of many ordinary citizens here in the Province”.
“Taxpayers and local residents have a reasonable expectation that their police force should refrain from endorsing particular political views”, he added.
Noting that the PSNI is careful not to send officers to other potentially contentious events, Mr Webster said this change “has compromised the force’s neutrality”.
“Police time and money would be better spent on tackling crime”, he concluded.