Alliance votes for same sex civil marriage Bill at Westminster

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Thursday, February 7th, 2013
Alliance Party South Down spokesperson Councillor Patrick Clarke has welcomed his party deputy leader East Belfast Alliance MP, Naomi Long, voting for the Second Reading of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill at Westminster, which aims to extend civil marriage provisions in England and Wales to same sex couples. Speaking to Newry Times, Clarke said that after a lengthy internal consultation on this issue last year, Alliance adopted a policy in favour of the extension of civil marriage to same-sex couples, provided that robust protections were put in place to protect religious freedom and practice. “I believe that equality and religious freedom are fundamental to a democratic society and that both must be promoted and protected, a position which is reflected in the Bill. “I was therefore pleased that my party colleague Naomi Long supported the Bill at Second Reading stage, which deals with the broad principles of the Bill. “I believe that the Government have set out clearly their intention to provide both equality of access and robust protections for faith groups who do not in conscience support same sex civil marriage, ensuring that they will not be forced to conduct same sex marriage ceremonies or have them conducted on their premises, or be prevented from expressing their views on the matter,” Clarke said. “It is also important in the context of religious freedom, that those faith groups who wish, in conscience, to marry same sex couples are able to do so without being prevented by the state, something which is also contained in the Bill.” “Alliance’s continued support for the progress of this legislation will depend on the robustness of the protections which are finally established during its passage through Parliament.” The Alliance Councillor added, “The Bill will now face detailed scrutiny in a Bill Committee where expert witnesses can give evidence that will help make the provisions of the Bill fair, equitable and robust.”
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