Later today, the Norn Iron Assembly will be debating “Equal Marriage”. Even though, the DUP have submitted a Petition of Concern, the exercise is not entirely pointless…as it sets out the attitudes of the main players in Norn Iron.
Is it Political?
Is it Generational?
Last time there was a vote in the Assembly, all of the DUP…fundamental Christians, most of whom are Creationist voted against “Equal Marriage”.
Three members of UUP voted for it. Most voted against.
The two members of NI21, liberal unionists, trying to bring unionism into the 21st century voted for it.
There is a certain irony here…these people are unionists and there is “Equal Marriage” in the rest of the so-called union that they profess to love.
And what of the Others. The sole member of the Green Party voted “Yes”. So did all members of Sinn Fein. Party Policy in both cases. There were some SF absences from the vote.
SDLP…most voted “Yes” …its Party Policy but there were some diplomatic absences and at least one abstention on the grounds of conscience.
I can certainly accept an issue of conscience.
But its likely that at least three of the SDLP MLAs who find it difficult will be stepping down before or at the 2016 Assembly Election.
Within the SDLP, it is now a non-issue.
Maybe a handful of votes can be lost because SDLP is in favour of “Equal Marriage” but it is ultimately a single issue and where exactly is the alternative for a Catholic voter. None are going to run out to vote DUP or UUP.
But what about the Alliance Party?
Well it is Party Policy.
But only four of their eight MLAs voted for their own policy.
One voted against.
Two were absent.
Curiously they were given an easy ride by a media that actually supports Alliance.
Alliance is itself a coalition of churchy ecumenism and secular pragmatism.
Trevor Lunn (Presbyterian) voted against, on the grounds of conscience and generation. Kieran McCarthy (catholic) did not vote either way, probably on the same basis.Hard to make such a sympathetic case for Judith Cochrane and Chris Lyttle the youngish Christians in East Belfast. It certainly looks like They did not want to alienate her East Belfast Protestant constituents.
Of course getting away with a “No” vote might work once.
But not twice.
The issue is now too high profile.
What we now have is that “Equal Marriage” is supported by Republicans-Spcialists-Nationalists (with some abstention) and opposed by unionists-loyalists-conservatives with a few exceptions.
And Alliance Party…hypocrites with an eye on the electoral problems it might cause.
Where does this leave a modern and liberal unionist voter?
Increasingly the problem in Norn Iron is NOT about Nationalist and Unionist.
It is a Debate between the 21st Century and the 18th Century.
How is accomodation even possible?
When I was 31, I dont think I would have even understood the concept of “Equal Marriage”.
When I was 41, I think i would have thought it outlandish and even a contradiction.
When I was 51, I would probably have considered it a serious debate to be had.
At 61….sure why not?
There is of course a full life to be had as a single person, straight or gay.
There is a full life to be had as a couple, straight or gay.
The key thing is “stability”.
And in so far as Marriage is often, if not always a stabalising thing…then clearly “Equal Marriage” can be argued as a good thing.
In a broader sense….if people want to marry a member of the same sex….it is soimply their right.
It doesnt diminish me in any way.
One slight caveat. As a married man…I do have a WIFE.
All I ask is that you do refer to Mrs FJH as my “wife” not my “partner”.
And in return, I will refer to your significant other …straight or gay…exactly as how you want.