Five times over the last five years MLAs at Stormont have debated proposals to redefine marriage. There is considerable pressure from activists and the media to introduce same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. It is very likely that the issue will be voted on again in the next Assembly term. MLAs elected on 2nd March may well decide whether or not to redefine marriage in Northern Ireland.
Politicians in England, Scotland and Wales have already introduced same-sex marriage, as has the Republic of Ireland. However only 21 of the 193 United Nations member states have taken the radical step of redefining marriage.
Christian voters should care about the issue of marriage. The Lord Jesus Christ teaches that marriage is the lifelong union of one man and one woman (Matthew 19). Marriage is a creation ordinance predating both the church and the state. It is the core of the family unit: society’s most basic building block. The complementary natures of male and female are integral to the design of marriage. Children need a father and a mother, but same-sex marriage denies this.
If marriage is redefined the effect on freedom of speech and freedom of conscience will be chilling. Consider what the Equality Commission has already done to Ashers Baking Company in Belfast. Christians working in the public sector could face pressure to keep quiet about their beliefs on marriage or risk being dismissed from their jobs.
Redefining marriage changes the meaning of marriage for everyone in society. Schools would face pressure to promote the new definition to children. Ofsted inspectors in England have already begun questioning pupils and teachers in Christian and Jewish schools about their views on same-sex marriage.
Advocates of same-sex marriage are recommending books for use in schools that undermine traditional marriage, and call on school children to act out gay weddings[i]. Stonewall has promoted picture books such as King & King in primary schools. This story is about two princes who fall in love and marry each other. In England LGBT History Months are now run annually and school pupils there have been taught that Florence Nightingale was a lesbian and that Joan of Arc was a ‘trans’ man.
The McArthur family are not the only people in Northern Ireland who have encountered hostility because of their beliefs about marriage. In 2013 Nick Williamson, the Christian owner of a printing firm in Portadown, was threatened with legal action after he refused to print a magazine containing homosexual images. If marriage is redefined in Northern Ireland then many more supporters of traditional marriage may face similar problems.
Evidence shows that redefining marriage actually undermines support for marriage in wider society. In the Netherlands there has been a significant fall in the marriage rate since marriage was redefined in 2001[ii].
Christians should find out the views of candidates in their constituency on same-sex marriage. If the candidates are elected they may well be deciding whether or not to redefine marriage in Northern Ireland. Following the elections last year a number of MLAs announced their intention to table Private Members Bills to introduce marriage at Stormont.
[i] Stonewall Education Guides, Including different families, Stonewall, pages 11-13
[ii] Duncan, William C, ‘The Tenth Anniversary of Dutch Same-Sex Marriage: How Is Marriage Doing in the Netherlands?’, iMAPP Research Brief, Vol.4, No.3, 2011; Marriages and Partnership registrations: Key Statistics, CBSStatLine, 2012, see http://tinyurl.com/colyp2o
Written by Callum Webster, Christian Institute.