Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The DUP*, Equal Marriage and Me

Whilst you may have read that I am upset about the Alliance Party's votes on equal marriage yesterday by far the biggest concern was the attitude of the majority of unionists. The obvious exceptions being Basil McCrea for his words and vote, plus Danny Kinahan and Michael Copeland. I would have expected to see long time friend of LGBT equality John McCallister on that list had he not been otherwise distracted by events yesterday.

Roy Beggs opened his contribution to the debate with the words "I declare an interest as a committee member of Raloo Presbyterian Church." Danny Kennedy also mentioned in his that he had "responsibilities as clerk of session and Sunday school superintendent at Bessbrook Presbyterian Church". I take it their interest came from the letter they received from their church about yesterday's debate and while they may be willing to support fracking and the demolition of the environment, they don't want to take a risk on demolishing society by letter people of the same sex enter into marriage like they have. It is bizarre then that two other Presbyterian Church elders David Ford and Stewart Dickson, both from the Alliance Party, did not feel bound by such advice from their church but voted yes.

Mike Nesbitt says that this is matter of conscience for his party, earlier in the day he had sacked John McCallister for seemingly disagreeing with him on something. So the fact that he is on record as also  saying there is no need for Equal Marriage may have swayed a few consciences for the fear of future exclusions.

Of course the main villains of the piece were the the DUP.

For a start they made sure that one of the movers of the motion and the Alliance couldn't affect the outcome from a petition of concern. In other words even if every non-Unionist had voted for the motion there was no way it would pass despite having a majority in the house. Last time I looked the LGBT community in Northern Ireland was catholic and protestant, nationalist and unionist. Our rights are hardly one that will adversely affect either community more than the other.

Then there are three personal stories of DUP elected representatives.

Of the three that represent North Down only one had bothered to write to me on the two occasions I have written to all my six MLAs on the subject of equal marriage. At 9:44 as I was getting off the train at Central Alex Easton sent me this:
There is no point in me dodging the issue I just don't agree with MLA Steven Agnew's motion on Equal Marriage and will never support it, this does not mean that I would be rude or mistreat anyone and will always try to help everyone that comes to me but on this issue I am unable to help, sorry

That is the full email bar the greeting and salutation at the end. I had linked the issue to the civil and religious freedoms fought far in the Ulster Covenant, both of which were present in this motion. I brought up the cherished rights of equal citizenship and how failing to address LGBT issues left me feeling second class not equal in my own land, yet nothing. No acknowledgement of these concerns.

Another Peter Weir and me have had a long 'dispute' over this since the vote, via Facebook.

He said things such as:
Got just 2 e mails from constituents in favour of gay marriage ahead of the vote. Ironically from 1 man and 1 woman 

Yeah that would be me again. As I said I got response from any MLA of his party. He went on to say later in the same thread:
my views wouldn't have changed, and I think that it was a little naive/going through the motions to e mail members of the DUP on the issue when our views are particularly clear, and also after we had put down a petition of concern to block it

Bingo! They you go an admission that they were out to block but also an admission that there is no point writing to the DUP to get them to change their minds about anything. Strange that I wrote to The Rev. Dr. I. K. Paisley many years ago telling him that he was fundamentally wrong to want to work with members of the nationalist or republican communities for the future of a peaceful Northern Ireland. I may have been a naive young student then, especially as I got a letter back saying "I will never enter in talks with IRA/Sinn Fein. You will never see the DUP under my leadership supping at the same table as those terrorists." But that is another story.

There was also another story about after the debate and before the vote while I was getting something to drink in the cafeteria at Stormont. I ran into a DUP MLA who I know would go to the same wedding as me, if not necessarily mine. The reason being that he did invite me to his daughter's wedding when she married a close relative of mine. I was in the queue behind him and said "Hello." He turned around and there was recognition there for a minute his voice started to speak before his eyes took me in more fully and said "Hel......oh, you're one of them!" and turned his back on me walking off. He had looked away from my face and spotted my LGBT+ Lib Dems I'm Liberal badge on its rainbow flag.

Now I am all for the DUP having an opposing view to mine but I'd at least like them to be civil about it, even those that aren't somehow related to me, or have been taught by my mother or taught me. Yeah my DUP connections are too often at first and second degrees of separation.

However, the way they went about things yesterday was far from civil. Sammy Wilson, for it was he who once taught me, said "I do not agree with the Civil Partnership Act 2004....Whether you accept it or believe that it was a correct piece of legislation or not, it encapsulates a range of protections for people who believe that they want to have same-sex relationships." Wow, talk about taking a step into the past. It is almost but not quite as bad as Mrs Robinson's comments. We only believe we want to be in same-sex relationships! 

But that is fine according to Miss McIlveen I am free to marry "everyone is free to choose to marry.  There is no bar or prohibition on marriage. People are free to marry provided they marry someone who is of the opposite sex." That would really be a bit of an upset for my wife-to-be, as it has been for many who have conformed to societal norms down the years especially before 1982 when it was illegal here to engage in active gay sex between men, to cover their tracks. 

But then when you quote 1866 legal precedence against polygamy, not homosexuality, because the 'divorce', as a result of his excommunication from the Church of Later Day Saints,as her first husband was not recognised by law. Well there couldn't be a dodgier piece of marriage legislation to bring up and pin your objections on. When only men could divorce on grounds of unfaithfulness, the whole issue of the Mormon Church back then, and the fact that it was her 'non-Christian' marriage that had fallen apart and didn't allow her to benefit from 'remedies'.

Update Below was the only unionist voice speaking in favour of the motion on Monday from Basil McCrea

* I know the title mentions only the DUP and I start with the UUP but I'd like Mike Nesbitt to be able to tell me and John McCallister just what is the difference these days.

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