Coming out. For equality.

Fergal McFerran is the President of NUS-USI, the organisation which represents around 200,000 students in Higher and Further education across Northern Ireland. He tweets @FergalMcFerran.

This weekend I did something I was never sure that I’d be able to do. I got on a train and I went home to see my family. This journey home was different to all of the others I’d ever made though. It was different because this time I went home with the sole purpose of telling my family that I’m gay.

Some people reading this who know me will probably be surprised to hear that I hadn’t told my family until now. For a while it’s been like living two lives; in a way that stopped certain people really knowing who I was. Barriers of fear had been created that didn’t need to be there. My story is not unique. I wish it was.

I come from a rural part of North Antrim and was raised in a Catholic family. I’ve always been incredibly interested in religion and have at various times in my life held what I would call a deep faith. I even studied Theology at Queen’s University for a number of years.

I knew I was gay when I was a teenager, but the circumstances I found myself in and the society that surrounded me had conditioned me to believe that there was something fundamentally wrong with me. I believed that I was a problem that needed to be fixed.

The journey I took home this weekend was the single most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. But it didn’t need to be. My parents are loving and caring people. They’ve provided everything they ever could to ensure I had a good start in life. But the world around them, and the world around me is structured to tell people like me that we are somehow less of a person, or deserve to be treated differently.

I cannot effectively describe the weight of pressure that I felt on my shoulders before I came out to my family. It was a pressure that had been building for years. A pressure that tore me apart at times, and a pressure that only very close friends will know meant I struggled with depression at points of the last few years.

I long for the day when young people growing up in Northern Ireland live in a society that values them regardless of their sexuality, not in spite of it. I long for the day when we can look to the political leaders of Northern Ireland and see a collective commitment to genuine equality.

My position on many social issues has changed over the course of the last few years. They’ve changed because I’ve recognised that being of faith and demanding a more equal world are not things that are in competition, they are not mutually exclusive.

Civil marriage for same-sex couples has been available in England, Wales and Scotland since 2014 and is about to become law in the Republic of Ireland too. Northern Ireland therefore remains the only part of the U.K. and Ireland where marriage equality doesn’t exist. That is a crying shame.

Some in our society would welcome this, claiming Northern Ireland is somehow the last bastion of morality within the British Isles, or that we remain the lone defender of the traditional definition of marriage. I do not share that position.

In extending the right to access marriage to same-sex couples in Northern Ireland, we are not trying to destroy the Church or demand that faith groups carry out wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples. We are talking about civil marriage, which is not the same as religious marriage.

Some claim that this issue is a controversial one. I don’t really think it is. Those who try to make it controversial do so because they know that their arguments just don’t really hold up. Scaremongering and diversion are the tactics now used to impede the journey we are travelling to a more equal and happy society.

On November 2nd the Northern Ireland Assembly will, for a fifth time in recent years, debate marriage equality. I will be writing to every MLA in the Assembly to ask them to see me as I am, a human being who deserves to be treated as an equal under the law.

I will be reminding our MLAs that their failure to legislate for marriage equality is not representative of the views of the majority. An Ipsos MORI public opinion poll published in July 2015 showed 68% support for same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. There was clear majority support among both men and women, from both Catholic and Protestant community backgrounds and across all urban and rural areas of Northern Ireland.

And I also want to say, as someone who understands the relationship that faith plays in this discussion for so many of our elected representatives, it is nothing short of a disgrace that the Democratic Unionist Party continue to abuse the petition of concern mechanism to veto marriage equality in Northern Ireland. There are people within the DUP who are not opposed to marriage equality – I urge them to have the courage to speak up.

We are consistently let down by the perpetual dysfunction and crisis of Northern Ireland politics. This vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly is an opportunity to show leadership, to say that we are a welcoming and forward looking legislature with the best interests of our people at heart.

My family embraced me with open arms this weekend. They reacted to my coming out in a way that so many unfortunately do not. I was treated with dignity, respect and unconditional love. I hope our elected representatives take the opportunity on November 2nd to do the same.

If you want to write to your MLAs at Stormont and ask them to vote for Marriage Equality you can do so quickly and easily by clicking here.

MarriageEquality graphic

 

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  • Granni Trixie

    Ferghal – your personal story brought tears to my eyes as I could imagine the anxiety you have had to live with. it does sound as though your experence is pretty typical.
    I am so,so pleased for you that your family didn’t let you down. Seems to me however that Churches, including the Catholic Church, by their attitudes are letting down gay people (and their families) infact anyone who deviates from what is considered the norm. So much for the virtue of charity or love of your fellow man?

    Negitavity to LGBT people is a man/woman made problem so it’s somethng we can do something about. Why NI is dragging its feet is a mystery to me.
    But my sense is that big changes are afoot. Hopefully a more live and let live attitude will prevail and release energy for what ought to matter – health,poverty etc.

  • Heather Richardson

    Great post. I’m so glad your family were supportive and loving. And it’s important that that people of faith who are pro marriage equality make their voices heard. Many Christians are in favour of marriage equality. Some Christians are even gay! You’d never know that from some of the media coverage. Good luck, Fergal.

  • chrisjones2

    Well done and good luck to you. You are now free to be open and live as you want and in a way that you never could have 20 years ago

    Live long and prosper!

  • Brian O’Neill

    Good grief! a positive comment from you Chris. You ok? I am so stunned I have made it a featured comment.

  • Turgon

    As I have suggested before I think there is room for compromise on both sides on this issue. A quid pro quo of legislating for homosexual marriage and in return legislating for a conscience clause with an agreement not to use petitions of concern on either might be a way out of this impasse.

    Otherwise both sides can continue to shout slogans at one another.

  • Turgon

    I have nothing at all against chrisjones holding this opinion, nor you Mr. O’Neill for agreeing with him. However, to make it a featured comment implies very strongly that slugger supports homosexual marriage as an editorial line. I always thought this blog was meant to be open to all and adopted a pluralist rather than a specific position on issues.

    As such for a member of the team to promote this comment is wholly inappropriate.

    Furthermore your comments to chrisjones in terms of his other comments are actually man playing.

  • Brian O’Neill

    I joke all the time with Chris about comments but least we be accussed of supporting a certain line I have unfeatured the comment.

  • Turgon

    It is appropriate that you have done so. In terms of “joking” with chris, however, you need to understand that the power imbalances on the site between yourself (with moderating rights) and chris (without such rights) are highly imbalanced and as such your “joking” could very easily be interpreted as bullying / threatening.

  • Turgon

    Mr. McFerran’s comments are not, however, in favour of marriage equality. They are in favour of homosexual marriage. There is a difference.

    The demands for homosexual marriage do not include polygamous or polyandrous groups. They also exclude non sexually / romantically linked individuals and the situation remains that certain sexual unions between consenting adults continue to attract criminal conviction.

    It appears that the GB Green Party are waking up to this discrimination but have not yet offered to oppose such discrimination.

  • Richard

    There is nothing unfair about current marriage laws. Homosexuals have the same rights and the same restrictions as heterosexuals. For example, there is no legal right granted to a heterosexual that does not apply in exactly the same way to every homosexual. Both can receive the benefits that come with legal marriage. Heterosexuals and homosexuals are treated equally.

  • murdockp

    the only comfort as I can give as someone with a gay brother, is the NI assembly does not reflect NI society its made up. Unfortunately the way the NI assembly is designed to work and the political parties involved means it draws the worst of our society to sit in it as the rest of us are too busy working to pay the mortgage to stand for election and put in the time to ensure electoral success.

    These people do not represent you or I, they are there for their political parties and themselves.

    The DUP showed for me how they see society when they refused to provide leadership for something which is precious to us all, the NHS.

    As for SF, I fear their support for gay marriage is just good politics to get one over on both DUP / UUP as I cant help noticing that there are not many openly gay senior members of SF.

    As for the so called moderates, they are pretty backward and intolerant, the fact that the SDLP might even consider letting an anti gay marriage candidate stand in South Down (see the attached letter she sent to the press) just makes me shake my head in disbelief.

    As for the UUP, it is quite clear what their position is as Mike Nesbit would be better off trying to herding cats than getting the party faithful agree to gay marriage.

    Simply put NI is still not a great place for Gay people to live, the only way true change will happen is a new liberal type centerist party in NI to deliver true equality and opportunity for us all regardless of race, religion or cultural affiliation,

  • Heather Richardson

    So this comment – which I assume is Fergal’s, as it comes at the end of his article – isn’t in favour of marriage equality?:

    “If you want to write to your MLAs at Stormont and ask them to vote for Marriage Equality you can do so quickly and easily by clicking here.”

  • Turgon

    It all seems to be about same sex marriage.

    It makes no mention of the other parts of what would be Equal Marriage namely polygamous / polyandrous unions, non sexual / romantic partnerships and consensual biologically related sexual unions.

    As such it is simply inaccurate to call it Marriage Equality. It is changing the historic discrimination in favour of non biologically related adult different gender sexual / romantic relationships to include non biologically related adult same gender sexual / romantic relationships.

    To use a simple analogy: By the same token societies which discriminated say in voting terms on the basis of gender but not on the basis of race were not equal in terms of voting.

    Mr. McFerran is promoting equality for homosexual marriage not truly equal marriage.

  • Turgon

    Are you suggesting that allowing a bisexual man to marry his male (or female) partner but not both is equal?

    Are you suggesting that keeping the property / inheritance etc. advantages only open to sexual / romantic unions of two people is equal?

    Are you suggesting that criminalising the act of love making between two adult consenting partners because they are biologically related is equal?

    Either equality is equality for all or it is not equality at all.

  • Mirrorballman

    “Are you suggesting that criminalising the act of love making between two adult consenting partners because they are biologically related is equal?”

    Are you linking incest with homosexuality?

  • Turgon

    There are many examples of people being attracted to more than one person.

    In many cultures polygamy has been accepted for all history. Indeed polygamous (and occasionally polyandrous) marriages have been socially, culturally and legally acceptable in many societies; long before homosexual marriage was considered. They remain that in many countries.

    If we want equality then we should mean what we say and stop using a Western model as the only one we find acceptable. If people want equality they should mean what they say.

  • Turgon

    Not in the slightest. What I am linking is that if decriminalising consensual adult homosexual activity is acceptable (and I strongly agree it should be entirely legal) then by the same token all freely consensual adult sexual relationships should be legal.

    I am linking equality in terms of sexual activity between adults. What goes on between consenting adults in their own privacy should be no business of the state’s.

  • Richard

    Yes. There is also no legal restriction for homosexuals that does not also apply in exactly the same way to every heterosexual. Neither can marry their sibling or parent. They can’t marry someone already married. Both are prohibited from marrying a child. And neither has the freedom to marry someone of the same sex. The pool of people available to marry is reduced equally for heterosexuals and homosexuals alike.

    The marriage law applies in the same way to every person, no matter their orientation. Everyone is treated equally.

  • Liam – another comment like this deleted one and you’ll be banned. Play the ball, not the (wo)man.

  • Richard

    Neither a homosexual man nor heterosexual man can marry a man. Equality.

  • Mirrorballman

    So, you’re saying that because we have legalised homosexual relationships true equality would need us to also legalise incest?

    That is linking homosexuality with incest. It’s a favourite and often repeated tactic of the bigot….

  • Kevin Breslin

    The decriminalization of Homosexuality and Civil Unions were brought in with the same parties we have now.

    I would say it’s down to the strength of political individuals from here not party political strengths.

  • Richard

    Look, I’m not looking to insult and don’t think I said anything disrespectful. Just seeing if the arguments hold up.

  • Heather Richardson

    I think – though I haven’t time to check – that both changes came about during periods of direct rule.

  • David McCann

    You sir, are out of here

  • Lord Coleraine

    A very moving and inspirational story. And he’s a fitty as well 🙂

  • Lord Coleraine

    It’s a curious argument about polyamorous marriage (if indeed that’s the name for it). How would it work? Legally speaking, there isn’t much of a difference in terms of how divorce or child custody or medical decision making would work in a same-sex married couple.

    However, surely they’re nowhere near as simple in a polyamorous relationship? Say two men and a woman are all married (something I would not, in principle be opposed to) and one of the men falls critically ill and ends up on life support. His wife wants to pull the plug and his husband doesn’t. Legally how would that be sorted? Just a thought. Like I say, I agree with the principle.

  • Kevin Breslin

    And weren’t they originally criminalized in Ireland and then Northern Ireland under direct rule?

    Indeed direct rule persisted with criminalizing (male) homosexuality until 1982.

    It was politicians like David Norris and Jeffrey Dudgeon who brought about reform in both parts.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque
  • Mirrorballman

    wasn’t it the courts that legalised homosexuality here rather than any political party?

  • David McCann

    I appreciate this is an emotive subject and views have passion, but I would remind people again of the comment rules of keeping on topic and playing the ball, not the man.

    The vast majority of you have followed the rules on both sides of the argument but we have had to delete some comments that are just way over the line.

  • Kevin Breslin

    That was my point; Hence the necessity of a new “liberal party” to bring the changes is questionable. In the UK and ROI the two big parties supporting equal marriage were right wing conservatives, even so called Christian Democrats.

    And it wasn’t going to be changed by direct rulers prior to that legal action.

    So if people think that a “pro-direct rule” party, or a strong public demand for direct rule for example might be worth creating to circumvent the brinkmanship and the intransigence of Stormont politics to pass legislation as was the case with civil unions, as a social democrat I would support the freedom to make such a move, but personally if you actually ask the people who fought these battles in the past they would say the issue and the campaign is a lot more complicated than winning enough seats in Stormont. Direct rule would not implement something that it may have reason to fear would cause it problems with the population here. In either case a strong social movement forces either’s hand.

  • Mirrorballman

    Yeah I think neither the Assembly or a Direct rule administration will push this through. Only viable option is through the courts (I think is already proceeding).

    My money is on the courts forcing a change in law here before the next assembly election.

  • Gaygael

    Kevin. Decriminalisation was through dudgeon vs uk at the European court in 82, and legislated for by the uk government. Every party opposed that and that includes the SDLP.

    Civil partnerships were introduced by the uk parliament and extended to Northern Ireland by a labour Secretary of State, despite opposition from the usual suspects.

    Here is John Humes record. http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/10300/john_hume/foyle/divisions?policy=826

    Seamus Mallon.
    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/10411/seamus_mallon/newry_and_armagh/divisions?policy=826

    Eddie McGrady
    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/10385/eddie_mcgrady/south_down/divisions?policy=826

    Margaret Ritchie
    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/13856/margaret_ritchie/south_down/votes

    That’s very grim reading.

  • Mirrorballman

    Sorry about that. Just had a Snickers, feeling much better.

  • Gaygael

    You are factually incorrect. But don’t let that stand in the way of poorly informed posturing.

    Civil partnership are not the same in marriage on a number of grounds. Faith groups can’t conduct, survivor pension entitlements are different, application to adoption is bared and their are differentials in immigration.

    No, education yourself before commenting.

  • Gaygael

    And Turgon returns with the half baked understanding of bisexuality. When you understand bisexuality and the scale of human sexual orientation that come back and comment.

  • Gaygael

    Marriages on one hand, so that Christians and those of faith can deny us; housing, any form of service, goods, facilities.

    Away and jump.

  • Gaygael

    Start your campaign Turgon. Use your force of argument to persuade others to your cause. Good luck to you.

  • Gaygael

    Well done fergal. Delighted your family were supportive. Sometimes, we build up irrational fears in our minds about what the reaction may be. Luckily, yours was positive.

    Unfortunately, there are still far too many people whose experience is not. And some of the bile and half baked posturing on this thread and the general discourse on these issue gives succour to that.

  • Lord Coleraine

    I support Ms Ritchie’s stance on the smoking ban.

  • Kevin Breslin

    It’s not my role to defend individuals, (I will say Ritchie’s abstention on the matter is as consequential as the absence of Sinn Féin MP’s on this matter) but playing the men or indeed women instead of the issue is simply going to polarize rather than popularize the cause. Plenty of people have changed their voting intention over time on this matter.

  • Richard

    With respect, I didn’t say anything about civil partnerships. We were talking about marriage laws. What right does a heterosexual have that a homosexual doesn’t also have regarding the marriage law?

  • Gaygael

    The right to a private life. Heterosexuals can. Lesbian or gay people can’t.

  • Gaygael

    No. It’s not your role. If you think Margaret Ritchie having NEVER voted in favour of LGBT equality is inconsequential, that that says a lot about you and your party. Telling minority communities, that have long been marginalised and had their concerns dismissed, that MPs that represent a party that professes to support don’t think it worth Turning up to vote, as hugely disappointing.

    As for the other Segway, pointing out your partys continued failure on these issues is important. The SDLP have for too long tried to ride two horses on these matters. And pleased nobody. Choose one.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Some countries do legalize consensual incest such as Spain, it doesn’t mean they encourage it.

  • Richard

    Can you expand on this a bit? What do you mean by “the right to a private life” and how is there inequality considering everything I have said already?

  • Turgon

    As I noted above the Green Party are open to the argument.

    I am surprised that said that one such as yourself who has been so vocal in support of homosexual marriage and has repeatedly used “equality” as your rallying cry, has in contrast so little interest in helping others in a similar position. Your view of equality seems to be equality for me and who cares about everyone else.

    As a one now departed commentator on this site once said you seem to be determined to get into the marriage “castle” and then pull up the drawbridge to everyone else.

  • Turgon

    What is your position then on “the right to a private life” of two consenting biologically related individuals who wish to have a romantic / sexual relationship. Does your interest in “the right to a private life” not force you to oppose criminalisation of such individuals?

    Does your interest in “the right to a private life” not also extend to those who wish to have polygamous or polyandrous unions?

    How can you support one group’s rights to “a private life” and yet have no interest in other groups?

  • Gaygael

    Yes later. I’m off out for dinner

  • Gaygael

    Yup they are. And when that campaign lobbies and grows and starts to effect change in other oarty of these islands I will of course give it consideration on its merits.

    It’s a ridiculous red herring that shouldn’t be entertained. This campaign in the north has been running over 5 years. It’s aims are quite clearly articulated. It’s about allowing same sex couples to marry, just like the can everywhere else in the juridsctions on these islands.

    You can have as much ill informed pendantry on the use of the word equality as you wish. You will not dislodge us from the central tenant of our argument.

    I look forward to your grass roots campaign for extension of marriage to the other groups that you keep talking about. You know, because you seem to care. Or is it just a non sequitur and scare tactic? I think that’s what it is.

  • Turgon

    Not at all.

    I have consistently suggested that I believe in complete separation of church (or any religion) and state on this issue.

    One of the major problems arises because churches (and other religious institutions) have the right to enter people into a civil legal contract – marriage.

    I would rather have totally separate concepts. There should be Union Civile for any consenting adult and any other consenting adults or adults. This would provide the same inheritance, tax, legal powers and rights to all people.

    As such I would cease allowing the churches to have civil powers in this regard.

    Then entirely separately the faith groups would have their own services for entering into “Holy Matrimony” those and only those whom they wished to: just as currently they have the right to decide whom they will allow to take communion – another sacrament of the church.

    This would allow for equality for all before the law and protection for the faith groups that they will not be forced to take part in practices which they disagree with on religious grounds.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I said consequential as an absent well wishing Sinn Féin MP who would not vote either. They are both a non-entity when it comes to legislating at Westminster. A principle non-vote is still a non-vote. Margaret has to answer for herself and to her constituents. I believe my party is heading in the right direction and more people are supporting equality.

    While I am not homosexual, I have Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, and there’s a lot of ignorance about it, there’s stupid opinions about vaccines or heavy metals causing me to be the way I am, and my ability to even be employable because of that, or my ability to empathize.

    There are people out there who see the Asperger’s I have as either a mental illness or a severe mental retardation. There are people who believe that if I ate an organic diet I’d be normal, there are people who believe that about homosexuality too.

    It hurts me and I do feel vulnerable about stereotypes, it hurts me when I see Gary McKinnon get a threat of extradition to the USA for an outburst I’d actually feel is normal, while many in the same country help to fund Dr Wakefeild carry out unsanctioned experiments on children to prove a link between vaccines and autism.

    My own personal feelings is that McKinnon was guilty of graffiti and Wakefeild of child abuse.

    There needed to be an Autism bill to protect people like me, I’ve needed to protect myself. I am grateful for the SDLP, Sinn Féin, Alliance and even the DUP to ensure that was passed, even with a culture of ignorance about autism that exists in society. It wasn’t passed by attacking likes of the UUP who had concerns about the bill.

    If the main argument was being made for the Autism Bill was stop riding two horses, it would never be passed, and people like me would be marginalized. People who had concerns that this would burden employers with red tape or legal liabilities would not have felt the need to open them.

    If the main argument for Equal Marriage in the referendum in the Republic was stop riding two horses, it would never be passed by a public vote too. People who opposed gay marriage would not felt they needed to change their mind.

    My concern is that pro-LGBT activists who are more concerned with the wrongness of opponents, rather than the righteousness of their love are hurting their own cause.

    I know the pain of marginalization and dehumanizing objectification, I have shouted, I have screamed, I have cried, I have pleaded, I have begged, I have accused, I have insulted, I have slandered, I have mocked and ridiculed, I physically fought people who have bullied me or have been ignorant of my condition and at the end of the day it is futile and it only helps the cause of the ignorant. However it was not like I could simply choose to be something that I was not, or feel people like me who didn’t conform to societies expectations could simply opt out of jobs, education or relationships.

    I am very aware that many homosexuals in Northern Ireland have those problems too.

    I don’t believe in agitation politics, my experience with it is failure and my observation of it in practice is that it fails there too. My feeling is that If the agitators tried to pass the Autism bill, they’d botch it up.

    Hate and Anger does not help Love or Logic, even if it is righteous anger.

  • Fergal – your piece puts the focus where it belongs: that at the centre of this issue are individual human beings, including young people, who have the pressure of having such a conversation with family.

    It astonishes me when I hear a debate between ‘leaders’ and hear that the welfare of young people coming to terms with their sexuality doesn’t even get a mention.

    It is the starting point for me, theology and politics can get in line…support and understanding for young people has to be a priority (you’d have thought that was a given for churches).

  • Lovely <3

  • Reader

    But Richard, following that logic, then men and women are not equal, because a woman can marry a man but a man cannot.
    What you are doing is not logic, it’s a word game. No wonder some people are getting a bit stroppy.

  • Reader

    He’s linking state recognition of multiple types of consensual relationships that aren’t currently recognised by the state; and so he’s testing how far people will carry the logic of their stated principles. Are their principles absolute; or are people simply following fashion?
    It’s a fair test for the dogmatists; but a bit of a distraction for those of us who just think that society is ready for Gay marriage, and that it’s right to allow it.

  • JohnTheOptimist

    If N. Ireland is pressured into adopting gay marriage, it should go the full hog and have no fuddy-duddy restrictions whatever on who can enter a gay marriage or on the number of persons one can contract a gay marriage with. N. Ireland would then be no longer the backwater liberals claim it to be, but rather would be leading the world into a new age of enlightenment.

    Such restrictions exist in the case of straight marriage only because heterosexual unions produce children and hence the state (rightly or wrongly) feels it has a right to regulate such marriages in the interests of those children. Since gay sexual unions produce no offspring, they are a non-event as far as government is concerned and there is no necessity for government to regulate gay marriages in the same way, any more than there is a need tor government to regulate masturbation. Thus, consanguinity laws make perfect sense in the case of straight marriages, but are completely pointless in the case of gay marriages. David Norris made the same point last week. While it would outrage all decent people if a father was allowed to marry his daughter, I see no reason why a father should be prevented from marrying his son, if both desired that. Or a mother marrying her daughter. Or two brothers marrying. Or whatever.

    Similarily, while there are sensible biological reasons that have evolved over centuries for government to restrict straight marriage to two persons, I see no need reason why there should be any restriction on numbers in the case of gay marriages. How is society affected in the slightest if a gay man has ten husbands rather than one?

    I’d also make it much easier for people to enter or exit gay marriages. Governments impose restrictions on entering and exiting straight marriages because it is felt (rightly or wrongly) to be in the best interests of the children that may be begot in those marriages. These restrictions have evolved over centuries only because straight marriages are associated with the production and raising of offspring. That’s the only reason that can in any way justify government involvement in what is actually a private matter between two people. Thus, even if both want to, a straight couple usually have to meet certain conditions before they can divorce, because governments are of the view (rightly or wrongly) that it is beneficial to society if the biological parents of children stay together if at all possible, and, so, divorce is generally discouraged. Admittedly, these conditions have been greatly relaxed in western countries in recent years. But, there is no reason at all why there should be similar conditions in the case of gay marriages. There is no reason for government to be involved in the process at all. If a gay couple want to divorce, the government has no justification for trying to discourage them. There could be a machine at Tescos where a gay couple can register their marriage and another machine beside it where they can register their divorce, should it regrettably ever come to that. This would all make life a lot easier for gays. Unfortunately, straights will have to carry on with a certain amount of government regulation of their unions and restrictions on their ability to enter and exit those unions purely and simply because their unions are the ones that will produce the next generation.

  • Granni Trixie

    Yet I well remember the case of a gay advisor to Trimble who was a real smart guy – when I asked people in UUP why he wasn’t ever a candidate I was told ” “O we wouldn’t select a gay man”. Ken McGuinness famously referred to the “beastiality ” f gay people but not sure if this is why he was ultimately dumped by his colleagues.

  • Granni Trixie

    Hasn’t the ‘no gay blood here’ rule been successfully challenged in the courts? What a waste of resources to put right an illogical / irrational DUP policy.

  • Granni Trixie

    Lighten up.

  • Granni Trixie

    Don’t do it, Brian!

  • Turgon

    Try to avoid passive aggressive man playing. This is far from the first time I have had to point that out to you. Either answer my substantive points or else refrain from directing comments to me.

  • Turgon

    I suspect the reason the advisor in question was never selected as a candidate was that many of us who knew him felt his political talents were vastly less than either he (or Mr. Trimble) believed – that said many of us thought less and less of Mr. Trimble’s political talents the more we saw of them.

    The advisor in question was after all the author of “Decent People Vote Unionist” which I have previously described as not the longest suicide note in political history but a short snappy bullet to the political head.

    Subsequently the same advisor had to resign as a newspaper columnist for serial plagiarism.

    As such I suspect whatever you claim the reason the individual in question was not selected was that he was politically inept. Why Trimble kept him on was a mystery to all of us though to be fair to Trimble has was both loyal to his supporters and extraordinarily stubborn.

  • Turgon

    To be fair the risk of children from consanguineous relationships having major deformities is actually remarkably low: no more than the risk to a woman over 40.

    In no way do I want to compare human reproduction with animal behaviour but in terms purely of genetics they are similar. A friend of mine who in the past bred rare breed sheep told me that the risk to lambs born to a mother whose father was also their grandfather was not a major problem. As such we probably worry more about genetic diseases than we need to.

    In addition this is a flawed line of reasoning. Take couples who have had a child with an autosomal recessive genetic defect. Subsequent chidden have 1 25% chance of having the same abnormality but we do not ban such couples from having more children let alone prohibit them having sex (to do so would be monstrous). In addition a person with an autosomal dominant abnormality has a 50% chance of their children having the same condition and again we place no restrictions on their sexual activity (nor should we as that wouldd be a eugenics nightmare).

    As such I disagree with part of your comment. However, the rest of it is entirely logical.

  • Roger

    Civil marriage for same-sex couples has been available in England, Wales and Scotland since 2014 and is about to become law in the Republic of Ireland too. Northern Ireland therefore remains the only part of the U.K. and Ireland where marriage equality doesn’t exist.

    Nomenclature: The name of the Irish state is Ireland. Northern Ireland is not part of Ireland.

  • JohnTheOptimist

    I bow to your superior knowledge on consanguinity. The point I was making was that, whether or not such restrictions are needed for straight marriage, they are totally unnecessary in the case of gay marriage, if N. Ireland goes down that route.

  • Turgon

    Oh yes and I agree that the logic of your case on the restrictions on homosexual marriage seems very compelling.

    I would, however, argue that if we decide to abandon the traditional concept of marriage we should adopt equality for all and allow for Union Civile as the only legally recognised position and that such Unions be open to any adult able to give free consent and any other adult or adults also able to give free consent.

    I understand the logic of restrictions on heterosexual couples because of the children but I would argue that you are failing the Equality Test and as such your concerns re children, as valid as they may appear, are in actual fact examples of outmoded even bourgeois thinking and should be cast aside in the quest for equality.

  • Dan

    I look forward to that champion of equality issues, Catriona Ruane, taking that on….

  • Dan

    No harm to the lad, but when his emotional tale quickly turned into yet another rant about gay marriage, he lost me.

  • Richard

    The law says neither men nor women can marry someone of the same sex. Equality.

    We are arguing about inequalities in the marriage law between heterosexuals and homosexuals. There are none.

    Allowing same-sex marriage won’t create marriage equality. It gives homosexuals a special pass to marry according to their desire – a right no one else has.

    It’s like a man wanting to marry his sister claiming the law was wrongfully denying him a basic human right that everybody else had, the right to marry. But that is an invalid argument. No man has the legal right to marry his sister. The law prohibits it. But if no man has the right to marry his sister, when the law denies him the right, it is not denying him anything is does not deny to everybody else. What he really wants is to redefine marriage according to his own desires and preferences. But then marriage can become anything we want it to be and ultimately destroys it.

  • Roger

    Rather than redefine marriage, would it not be better to abolish marriage laws outright? NI would be the first jurisdiction in the world to do so and would be way ahead of places like The Netherlands. People could still get ‘married’ if they felt so inclined via religious or secular ceremonies but not via the State. All parents would be treated equally. Children would not be discriminated against depending on whether their parents were married or not. There would be no unhappy legal unions. There would be no messy divorces. Tonnes of State resources would not be allocated on the basis of discrimination between married and unmarried people: think tax credits, pensions, tax breaks etc. Rather those State resources could be allocated on the basis of who actually needs the money most. It would resolve the discrimination current plans to redefine marriage don’t address such as polygamy which would then be a non-issue.

    If all that doesn’t sell the idea, it would put NI on the map and not for riots, bombs or bigotry for a change.

  • Roger

    I’d prefer to abolish marriage laws but if that is not acceptable, your option is my preference. Why should an old Uncle not be able to marry his nephew if it will pass on a pension or other benefits that an old gay man might pass on to a young lover etc?

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    I’ve seen some stupid and ignorant comments, ideas and concepts floated on these comment boards before but this is singularly the most moronic.

  • Turgon

    Yes the problem of inheritance laws is a huge problem for many especially older people in farming communities.

    Historically siblings may never have married and farmed their parents farm after those parents’ deaths. The property is usually in the name of the eldest male but all siblings will have shared in the work and the (usually very limited) prosperity that work has brought.

    The problem arises with the death of the legal owner or him / her going into a nursing home. Despite having very little money the land value of these farms can be very considerable. As such the farm and even homestead may have to be sold from under the other siblings.

    This is a clear and gross inequality and totally unfair. These sorts of people tend to be much less vocal than others in demanding their rights but society should help them.

    In this context having a Union Civile for any person or persons and any other person or persons who free consent to it would be extremely useful and provide protection and fairness to all parties.

  • Richard

    Awesome! Thanks. What right does a heterosexual have that a homosexual doesn’t also have regarding the marriage law?

  • Granni Trixie

    Funny enough Kevin this last while I have been wondering why I had so little bother adapting to the new world of normalising of LGBT (given I grew up as a traditional Catholic) and I concluded that to a large extent this an outcome of the impact of having to bring up a child with a disability.
    Whether we liked it or not our family entered a different world to the one we had expected and certainly felt we different to other families.
    Accessing a ‘special’ school however made me feel privileged to witness people courageously struggle to get on with their lives. Infact this experience informed the reason I did not support the Hunger Strkes ( 1981) as a waste of life and I simply could not grasp why mothers for instance would not do all they could to rescue them from this situation ( yes,I know it’s sexist but there you go).

    So whilst I can understand why connections between disability and sexual identity might not seem immediately obvious what it points to is the bigger picture and the battle for acceptance and value for difference.

    In view of your own condition Kevin you may be interested in a long held view of mine that AS is more prevalent than we know. Once I read up and observed symptoms In people I know I concluded that it explains many in public life especially the world of politics. (I am aware however there is a range in the Spectrum and everybody with AS isn’t a genius with a remarkable memory!)

  • Granni Trixie

    Although many of us believe in commitment to one person at a time it is perfectly possible to be attracted to many people at the same time. Or is this only me ?

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    The right to marry the person they are in love with

  • Richard

    Love isn’t part of the marriage law. The government is not interested in your feelings or who you are in love with. That’s irrelevant. Its purpose is to ensure the would-be couple is eligible to marry.

    Also, the same is true of heterosexuals. No one has unrestricted freedom to marry anyone they love. Be it children, parents, siblings, someone already married. Again, the restrictions are the same for both heterosexuals and homosexuals.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The only thing that perhaps is working in the DUP’s favour on the blood ban is the Republic of Ireland have yet to legislate against the blood ban, even with a homosexual former doctor as Health Minister abandoning any personal bias on his part to let the science support the argument.

    The irony of a unionist relying on the “Irish Republic” to stop a Great British legal precedence isn’t too odd, given the Same Mountains, Same Rivers (of Blood donors?) argument. My feeling is that there really isn’t much difference between a British “MSM”, an Irish “MSM” and a Northern Irish “MSM” statistically that the epidemiology would vary that considerably.

    Since there is a review in the Republic, since Simon Hamilton has said he will consider all Scientific Evidence, surely asking him and his party to reconsider their stance on the review on The Republic of Ireland’s evidence would be a tactful way of challenging their position.

    This given the risk factor analysis stance taken by the research of British epidemiologists alone isn’t good enough for them.

    That would draw a line between whether this is faith based or skepticism based. Either way they can both be tested.

  • Rebecca

    Proud to have people like you Fergal working with students and politicians to make NI a more equal place to live.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    And yet I can’t marry someone from, say, vietnam – that I’ve never met before with the purpose of them gaining residency in the country… why? Because it’s deemed to not be a genuine relationship… how can you quantify this….?

  • Roger

    I prefer the concept of abolishing marriage laws or if that is not an option, divorcing them entirely from all economic matters.

    As regards the old farmer and his siblings etc.: agreed Society may need to do more to protect his siblings. However, my approach would not be to bundle such protections with marriage law or indeed Union Civile laws.

    We would then go about writing laws to protect vulnerable people, not just vulnerable people who are in some kind of State-preferred relationship which is inherently illogical and discriminatory. Protect people on the basis of need for protection, not civil status.

    My preferences would I think be:

    – best option, abolish marriage laws;
    – second best, replace marriage laws with laws Union Civile laws that are entirely divorced from economics;
    -third best, keep marriage laws but make them entirely divorced from economics and permit adults to marry whomever and however many persons they like.

    Citizenship and Nationality rules would need careful planning too around all this. That detail would have to be worked out.

  • Gaygael

    Join the dots.

  • whatif1984true

    Great that it all worked out Fergal. I do wonder what your family said whether it was a 100% surprise to them? It might help others to know if you wish to share that experience.

  • Dominic Hendron

    What a self involved society we’ve become, the elevation of self is at the heart of this issue which is inimical to what the Christ teaches: “If a man wants to be follower of mine let him deny himself, take up his cross and then come follow me” The church must always be compassionate and open to peoples struggles but it has to follow Christ regardless of what the world thinks. Is it not interesting that the fall of the Church, through its own fault, was a pre-requisite to the introduction of equal marriage in the south. What does that say about the emergence of a modern “rights” based morality.

  • Granni Trixie

    I’m glad you brought that up,Dominic for in this debate I’ve been wondering where is the virtue of love in some of the ways people are using language to put down People who are not heterosexual. Christ must be weeping.

  • Granni Trixie

    Very revealing comment.

  • Croiteir

    It is interesting to me that no one, when trying to redefine marriage, has actually to my mind has asked or answered what is the state’s interest in marriage?