Shannon on Same Sex Couples Marriage Bill at Westminster
JIM Shannon, DUP MP for Strangford, speaking after the Marriage (Same Sex couples) Bill at Westminster has expressed his views to Down News about this controversial subject which crosses legal, moral and religious boundaries.
Mr Shannon said: “The single biggest mailbag I have had in all my days as an MP, MLA orcouncillor has been on this issue. I listen to my constituents—not just one or two, but all of them. In this case, I listened to the 1,700 of my constituents who have contacted me to tell me clearly that they are opposed to any change and to the redefinition of marriage.
“More than 99% of my constituents who have contacted me have said that they do not want this. I have listened carefully to the argument that this is a matter of equal rights. That is not how I or my constituents view this matter. The introduction of civil partnerships, which enshrined legal and financial rights, ensured that people in civil partnerships had the same protection as a married couple. There is parity of rights here, so this is not a matter of equality of rights.
“With great respect to the House and to everyone here, the sheer volume of those who are against this change cannot be ignored. Marriage is the union of one man and one woman. That has not changed for thousands of years. My constituents tell me they see no reason to redefine marriage, and I agree. We do not need to push through a measure which so many people believe will affect their ability to live out their Christian faith, but which does not give rights or correct wrongdoing. There is much potential for harm. This not scaremongering; these are grounded and justified fears.
“The change in the law which is now passed in favour of same sex marrriages has the potential to bring inequality to
anyone who disagrees with the redefinition of marriage, or who does not teach it, or who feels unable to promote or assist its promotion in their work. It will leave Churches vulnerable. On behalf of the Elim Church, the Baptists, the Presbyterians, the Brethren of the Church of Ireland or the Church of England, the Roman Catholics, the Methodists, the Muslims, the Sikhs, the Orthodox Jews—all those faiths who do not want a redefinition of marriage—I asked the Government not to ignore them, but to listen to what they and a few of us here are saying. The quadruple lock the Minister referred to makes worrying reading.
“There is no protection for public sector chaplains in the armed forces; NHS and university staff will be denied, for fear of losing their jobs, the freedom to express the opinion that marriage is between one man and one woman. Some 40,000 teachers have expressed the valid fear, backed up by legal opinion, that they will not be able to opt out of endorsing same-sex marriage and allow someone else to teach that aspect of the curriculum.
“There is something horribly wrong about a teacher losing their job for seeking to bow out gracefully of teaching that section by allowing someone else to step in. It is also wrong that parents have no protection enabling them to remove their children from classes in which they will be taught something that is expressly against their beliefs. When did we become a country that enforces ideals on people to the detriment of their personal faith? I do not believe that we are such a country, and I urge everyone today to ensure that we do not become it.
“What about council registrars who feel unable to follow the new definition because it is contrary to their faith? The Minister has claimed that the quadruple lock will ensure that Europe cannot change things. She and everyone else in this House knows that Europe decisions have been made that overturned legislation in this country. I have five examples, but I will give only one, because time is against me: Islington council sacked registrar Lillian Ladele for requesting an accommodation of her conscientious objection to same-sex civil partnership, and the European Court confirmed that a public authority could force employees to act against their beliefs on marriage and sack any who resist.
“That demonstrates a quadruple lock and any other kind of lock will fall down when it comes to the European Court. Is there any other reason why the Minister believes that Europe will support us?
“I urged the Government to put that statement into practice and show that we are not ashamed to live by the Christian principles of loving God, loving our neighbour and living by the word of God. The House should not have taken away people’s right to do that and say it is for equality. It is not. Parity of rights is already secure. Instead, let people live their faith without fear of persecution, aided by this Government. I urged the Members of the House to oppose the Bill, but alas it was carried.”