Monday, 29 April 2013

'For Everyone' caveats may apply

In my humble opinion when you say you stand For Everyone you'd better make the right adjustments to make sure you do stand for everyone.That is what I think the Alliance Party's amendment so today's motion on the constitutional convention and equal marriage aimed to do*. However, it appears that three of the Alliance Party's own MLAs couldn't even do this (Trevor Lunn voted against his party's amendment and Keiran McCarthy and Judith Cochrane abstained by voting in both lobbies). You may recall back in October that these three either voted the same way or were strangely absent. To do so once voters can excuse to do it twice on the same issue loos like a habit.

I have no issue with the three Alliance MLAs who then, after the amendment was defeated, abstained on the substantial motion. However, with Cochrane and McCarthy joining Lunn in the No lobby it makes we wonder if all of the Alliance Party is for everyone, or whether some add too many caveats. As many will know from my past the reason I hadn't up until December last year joined the Alliance was because as I said too often they weren't liberal enough for me, but don't panic I'm going anywhere just yet (well not apart from being the member from Kirkwall).

But then there was the party that brought the motion Sinn Féin. Unfortunately they had ignored one important fact in putting that motion before the Assembly this time around. You need to bring with you those of faith who are on your side, by ignoring part of the motion from October that did that they were not going to get as much support as October, all other things being equal. That is why there were only 42 votes for this time.

When the Liberal Democrats formed their motion which subsequently became party policy and the skeleton of the policies in the rest of the UK, we made sure that faith groups were not compelled to do anything, but also recognised that some were ready right now to carry out same-sex marriage and that others may follow after dialogue within themselves. But you cannot oppose church government from government and the same should be true in reverse.

However, whatever the outcome of today let us not lose sight of the true villians of the piece the Unionist MLAs. With only one exception, East Belfast's Michael Copeland, from the biggest two groupings all the rest voted no. You would imagine that there were no LGBT people in the protestant/unionist/loyalist population the way this group carried on, thank goodness for Copeland along with Basil McCrea and John McCallister.

The DUP have signed up to the St Andrews Agreement adjustments to the Good Friday Agreement. They are still meant to promote equality of opportunity to all, without prejudice to sexual orientation. The more they continue to deny any advance to the LGBT community the more we have to consider that they are not fulfilling their obligations under Section 75 of the Belfast Act.

The conclusion of today is that all parties in Northern Ireland are somehow or other signed up to equality of opportunity for all, yet each is bringing their own caveats to the table on what is, no matter what Sammy Wilson says, a matter of equality.

* However, our churches are exempt from certain areas of equal employment legislation. No woman has ever challenged the Roman Catholic Churches right to not ordain women, and churches are at liberty not to employ LGBT people should they so choose.

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