Hard-hitting investigations on the major stories affecting life in Northern Ireland. Jennifer O'Leary investigates the controversy in Northern Ireland over the gay marriage issue.
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causing controversy in Westminster. Yearly controversy is much the same.
For some it is a civil rights denied. We are completely
second-class but pay taxes like everyone else.
Gay couples want the right to marry and be a riot -- allowed to adopt.
What would you teach your children about sexuality?
I would teach them very simply add a young age that some people like boys
and some like girls. Some churches accept gay marriage. We support the
full emancipation of same-sex couples.
There will be no shame in our home and name-macro will not have to deal
with shame and embarrassment. But others stand opposed.
It is not a matter of doubt, it is pure human reason. Just because some
people claim something about equality, does not mean it is.
We investigate if a new fault line is opening up in politics and
society here. There is a need for politicians to
leave the religious believes at home. Who does our loyalist lesbian
vote for? Is this a question? most important thing is same-sex
marriage to them, I suspect the DUP Across the UK, moves to allow
same-sex marriage have proved highly controversial. Tonight, we meet gay
couples here living their lives through the debate. Gay
grandfathers. A couple setting up home together. A
new mother. And a couple who want a Meet Kerry and Julianne. They are
moving in together and doing up Hello. How are you? Thanks for
having us. You are doing powerful work here. We
have been in two weeks, the kitchen walls have to be finished and the
gas is going in this week, and that's us. When did you realise
growing up you were attracted to women and girls your age? It was
really gradual. Even at 11 at the age of getting boyfriends, I had no
interest. What about you, when did you come
out? Kind of the same as Kerry, I came to grips with it at 14.
parents did not take it as well as I would have liked, but... What
happened? My mum was supportive, I think it was me that could not cope
with it, I thought I was not normal. Shall we see upstairs? Yes, let's
go. Mind your head on this. This is Kerry's shrine to her shoes.
I have a lot of space for my shoes. I wanted to build wardrobes in the
front room but was not allowed. You have a whole box of shoes here. And
I have a suitcase of summer shoes. What size shoe are you? I am to?
you, Julianne? I'm a size six, unfortunately.
This is these secret of a relationship, to winning, not enough
Undercurrent read legislation, a marriage can only be between a man
and women conducted through a religious or civil ceremony. --
under legislation. Since 2005, lesbian and gay couples have been
able to enter into a civil partnership. There are two main
distinctions. A civil partnership can only be between the same-sex
couple and conducted only through a civil ceremony.
A civil partnership confreres most of the greats of our marriage, but
many gay couples don't think it is enough. Civil partnership, even
though it is not on your agenda right now, it might be down the
line. If you wanted to get married that option is not there. How do you
feel about that? Personally, I would not want a religious ceremony, but I
would like to have a civil marriage. That will not be open to us and that
infuriates us. People who are sinners in the eyes of the Bible can
get their marriage accepted in the eyes of God, yet because we are
Northern Ireland Ireland was the first place in the UK to hold
same-sex civil partnerships. But it had been the last to decriminalise
homosexuality. On the day the most recent census was carried out in
2011 there were 766 people living in civil partnership households here.
John O'Doherty is among a new generation of campaigners. He is
director of the Rainbow Project, a gay rights organisation. He has done
living with his partner, shame, for three years. For them a civil
partnership would not be sufficient. -- his partner, Shane. What is your
definition of marriage? I always took it like my mum and dad
being married, they loved each other and brought up a family and are
still going strong. That is what it meant to me. I would like to think
me and John are on the track to be like that, too. Would you like to
get married at some stage? Yes, I would. I do! Is a civil partnership
not enough? It is not the same. People don't
grow up and say I want to have a civil partners someday, you want to
be married. It is a commitment.It is, but it is not seen as equal.
Just last month, Sinn Fein urged MLAs to legalise same-sex marriage.
People do not want to see citizens discriminated against. They are
changing because our lesbian, gay and transgender communities have
said enough is enough. The move to legalise same-sex marriage mobilised
churches to intervene. We believe the current legal definition of
marriage, as between one man and one women, with his fist -- its historic
and Biblical basis, is a fundamental building block of society.
The Presbyterian Church and the Catholic Church both petitioned all
MLAs to oppose the motion. We say that homosexual acts are
inconsistent with the Christian life, they are inconsistent with
natural law and the intention and purpose of our sexual capacity.
Proponents of gay marriage have framed much of the debate as an
issue of equality, but those are against argues same-sex marriage can
never be equal to marriage between a man and a woman. You cannot say
these two things are the same. While it is a very powerful and emotive
word come equality, and important, it does not apply. With respect, the
word does not apply in this case because it does not suit your
dogma. It is not a matter of dogma, it is pure human reason. Just
because people claim something is about equality it does not mean it
is. We don't argue this simply as a matter of religion. Irrespective of
religion, marriage has always been recognised by society as a
fundamental institution on which the state and society is based. When one
looks at the continuum and the social justice and God 's love...
But gay marriage is not opposed by all churches here. Chris Hudson is a
Unitarian minister of all souls Church in Belfast. It is obvious we
support refill emancipation of same-sex couples in society. -- we
support the full emancipation. By law he is unable to marry a gay
couple but offers blessings to those who have entered a civil
partnership. Today he is holding a naming ceremony for a lesbian
couple's baby. We give to you the name Maya Tabakin.
Are you preaching from the text of the Bible? I believe that I am.
God's love is not exclusive and include all people in all forms.
it become a name honoured and respected for wisdom and good
deeds. We have to remember the apostles and
disciples and the evangelists, they were talking about God 's love
within the context of the culture of the new.
We are not of their culture. If more people agreed with your
interpretation of the Scripture, wouldn't there be crowds of people
coming here? You cannot judge people's faith by whether they
attend church. I would love to see Maya's lesbian parents used a sperm
donation through a private clinic in Europe. Having a child was something
Paula, a Michael's birthing mother, had always wanted. Paula also wanted
a religious ceremony to celebrate her daughter's birth. I am
personally deeply religious and wanted a blessing done with God. It
means there will be no shame in our home, and Maya will not have to deal
with shame and embarrassment about to her parents are. However, her
partner chose to remain anonymous. There is the problem by partner, who
can't be identified. This is due to having an elderly family and we
don't want to cause any disruption there. I am going to run out of the
door with her, Paula! Isn't she gorgeous? Do you, the congregation,
promised to commit yourselves to support this family and Maya?
We do. A recent survey of British attitudes on gay marriage suggest
people of faith are just as likely to support same-sex marriage as
opposed it. The survey found those who identified with a religion were
evenly split on allowing same-sex couples to marry. 43% were for it,
Matters of faith and public policy can collide. David Ford is a
practising Presbyterian. He supports same-sex civil marriage, a
view that is at odds with his own church. David Ford chose to step
aside from active duty is in his church after a number of the
congregation expressed unease at his stance. What I have to do as a
legislator and as a minister is initialled that I provide
appropriate services for everybody in this society, many of whom do
not share my beliefs. You have the same religious belief, but you want
marriage equality. Our I believe in the separation of church and state
and we need to recognise diversity, recognise the quality obligations
of the state are to provide services on an equal basis. The
state must recognise the right so faith groups. If a politician
belongs to upper lip -- particular faith community, it has a right to
assist the politician in understanding the teaching of that
church. As if you can extract religion from who people are, that
is a nonsense. His Assembly rejected the motion by Sinn Fein to
legalise same-sex marriage -- that the Assembly. Those who voted
against included unionist some members of the Alliance Party. The
DUP tabled a Petition of Concern that ensures that a motion will
only be approved if the majority of nationalists and unionists bracket.
So some people seem to think if you do not fall into line with their
line of thinking you are intolerant. We should be more respectful off
people who have sincerely held views on things. We should not mock
them. Who is mocking them?I am not getting into that. Why would you
say that? I have heard people describe those who oppose same-sex
marriage as bigots. They are not, they are people who care about the
society they live in. They support marriage. For this couple, the
politics of the debate has posed a particular problem. They are
lesbian loyalists, which causes them a dilemma when it comes to
decide who to vote for. What about the DUP? They are not pushing for
equal rights. One certain things coming yes. We are 30 years behind
the rest of the UK. Who do you vote for? This is the question. At the
moment, you cannot be gay and a loyalist. It depends what issue is
most important in their lives. I have yet to meet anybody who votes
on a single issue. At analysts say the single issue has revealed signs
of a new political religious fault line. His it is an issue that has
crossed religious divides. It is perhaps making for unusual
alliances. It is perhaps giving people a glimpse of a different
type of politics that does not automatically fall in to Protestant
and Catholic boxes. France became the 9th country in Europe to
legalise gay marriage. Closer to home this week, MPs debated whether
to legalise it in England and Wales. It is also on the radar in Scotland
and the Republic. The agenda of the Government in the south, Scotland,
Wales and England. Of course it should be on the agenda. Not before
time that legislation should be brought in. The North will be left
behind. The current stand against it may be a case of history
repeating itself. You will legislate perversion and immorality.
To spite opposition from unionist politicians in the Eighties, the
European Court of Human Rights forced Westminster to decriminalise
homosexuality head. Should gay marriage been legalised in the rest
of the UK and not here, a legal challenge by it for Stormont to
bring the law into line with Britain. We have same-sex couples
knocking at our door saying they want to take a case should this
transpired. A court challenge is inevitable. They court ruling might
force the hands of politicians. Assembly will be dragged to
legislate, what it should have been doing in the first place. Marriage
equality is at the top of the gay rights campaign in the UK, but not
every gay couple wants to be married. Vincent and his partner
are happy with their civil partnership. They have been
together 12 years. We have no intention to upgrade to a marriage.
It quality is important. Our relationship should not be seen
different from everybody else. Before Vincent came out, he was
married with a son. Together Vincent and his partner David
helped to raise him. And his wife recently gave birth to a baby boy,
the first grandchild in the family. What are you looking forward to
about being a grandfather? When he has started to walk, and he is
walking down the street, you go to the park. It is new to me. I
changed my first nappy last week. It is fantastic. I love it. It is
an opportunity I thought I would not have. Some people would look at
you with your grandchild and think there is something wrong with your
having a grandchild. My parents were not gay. They were
heterosexual. They had two children and one of those is gay and one of
those is straight. I have raised a child who is heterosexual. He is
wonderful. The issue of gay adoption runs parallel to the
campaign for same-sex marriage. A single person, gay or heterosexual,
can apply to adopt. Cohabiting couples, irrespective of their
sexuality, are ruled out. They heterosexual couple could marry and
then applied to adopt. Gay couples do not have the option. They can
foster. John and Shane applied. When did you both have a serious
chat about having children? John said he had thought about fostering.
I started to look into it. How did your families take it? They were
great. They were supportive. My sisters and my parents encouraged.
Shane said it never crossed his mind that he would not have the
option to have children. Did you think it would be rolled out for
you? There was no doubt in my mind I would have children. I would have
expected it this time in my life I would have had children. I find it
hard, that people who do not know me and have no idea about me, my
family, my upbringing, decide I am not suitable to be a parent. It
baffles. What about you? Do you get upset? Sometimes. We have a great
house, a great relationship. We hope to bring other people to enjoy
it, as well. Northern Ireland is the only part in the UK where
unmarried couples are banned from applying to adopt. The Human Rights
Commission challenge the law and the High Court ruled that this ban
on gay and unmarried couples adopting is unlawful. The ruling is
being appealed by the DUP minister. I will act in the interests of the
child. It is not a human right to adopt. People need to get back here.
We must ensure that his human rights of the child are considered.
People can get on hobby-horses but they do not provide solutions.
Child welfare is paramount. We have to do everything to protect our
children. Where I part company with some of the statements by the
minister is that I believe some of his statements in relation to be
gay and lesbian community are discriminatory. That is not good
enough. The DUP said the Health Minister's decisions are taken
objectively. His department said he is committed to a reform of
adoption law. As a point of principle, do you think that gay
couples should be allowed to adopt? They are allowed to foster. Let's
look at what the minister comes forward in his proposals. What I
think is we should focus less on who is adopting and focused on who
is being adopted. A an equality commissions survey suggests
negative attitudes towards gay people are does -- are decreasing.
Nevertheless, 27% said they would mind having a gay person as a
neighbour. When asked if they would be unhappy if they close relatives
were to form a relationship with a gay person, the figure almost
doubled. 42% said they would be unhappy. I tested opinion in
Belfast. Should gay people be allowed to marry? Definitely.
disagree. Definitely not a. It says so in the Bible. People are perhaps
living in the olden days. people should have equal rights.
Family and what is best for children are flashpoints in the
debate. For the generation who have grown up in same-sex households,
they want to contribute. Conor Pendergrast was raised by lesbian
parents and has become an advocate for same-sex parenting and wants to
change what he sees as prejudice to families like his own. I am Conor
Pendergrast. I would like to talk to you about my family. There is me,
my brother and my parents, Anne and Bernadette. I do not feel different
because of my family. My friends have different types of families.
What they have in common is their parents' love them and they love
them back. That is important. is there an element of sexism? Some
people are comfortable with the idea of children being raised by
two mothers but not comfortable with them being raised by two
fathers. I think there is a latent homophobia. People would expect two
mothers to raise children perfectly well. There is the idea that men
are not the caring, loving parents. Of opponents of same-sex marriages
say society is best served by keeping a marriage between a man
and woman. The it comes back to the idea of what do you make normal and
what is the gold standard for the bringing up of children? The best
place for a child to be brought up is in a marriage between his mother
and father. Is less than a gold standard second best? I am simply
saying it is what you make normal his society. The situation that
society has always respected as special is that between a woman
ants -- a woman and a man as mother and father in a marriage. Overall,
research into the effects on a child of same-sex parenting is not
conclusive. Studies are run going. A clinical psychologist believes
that children thrive in stable, loving families. What is best for
children is to have to compatible parents, irrespective of their
gender and sexual identity. Children of same-sex parents are
likely to be as successful as others at school. They are
emotionally well-adjusted. Families have many permutations in Northern
Ireland now. The if you want a family, raising children and
passing on, and also your heritage, that is achievable. Having a family
matters to these two. There reality is the majority grow up with the
human instinct to want to become parents. Just because you happen to
be gay does not mean that goes away. You may never be a father. I cannot
imagine it, really. It is not just about being a father, it is about
having a family. Having my family extended. Having that experience of
being a parent that my parents had bid the person I love. I cannot
imagine it. All the so he does not want a gay marriage himself,
Vincent sees the momentum behind the campaign as irreversible.
People will say how did the church, politicians get on the wrong side
of this? The generation of the future that Ethan will be part of
will look back and wonder what the fuss was about. That is my hope.
Those on the other side of the debate believe their values are
being attacked. Does secularism have the right to dominate? No. We
need genuine diversity. The new phobia is religion. That is not of
an equal society. The judge still minister says gay marriage is the
touchstone for conflicting cultural values. We probably have a culture
war in a number of areas. The issue about same-sex relationships is a
large part. There is significant social change happening. This
society is becoming to verse. For some people it is difficult to
recognise that -- becoming diverse. As it stands, same-sex couples in
Northern Ireland cannot marry and are banned from planning to adopt.
If I said you you could wake up tomorrow morning and Mari Shane, or
you could legally adopt as a gay couple, what would you choose?
have to decide? How would you feel if you were told that? If equality
is not brought in here and it is in the rest of the UK, would you stay
here? Yes, I would. It is really tough. You cannot marry me if you
are moving. A nation to legalise gay marriages are unlikely to come
before the Assembly again for at least six months. It is not
Jennifer O'Leary investigates the controversy in Northern Ireland over the gay marriage issue.