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Arlene Foster says marriage equality was 'imposed' on Northern Ireland

The DUP leader says Stormont Assembly's voice needs to be heard

2020-01-23

Words: Steve Brown

Arlene Foster says measures must be brought in to protect churches from involvement in same-sex marriages in Northern Ireland.

The DUP leader argued that the decriminalisation of abortion and introduction of marriage equality was ‘imposed on Northern Ireland’ from Westminster, Belfast Telegraph reported.

Northern Ireland was the only part of the UK that did not recognise same-sex marriages as well as banning abortion except when a mother’s life is at risk.

However, last year, LGBTQ citizens across Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK celebrated as marriage equality and abortion rights arrived in Northern Ireland.

More than six years after legislation was passed in England and Wales allowing LGBTQ people to marry the person they love, the UK can finally say that it has marriage equality for all.

Back in July, Westminster Parliament backed marriage equality in Northern Ireland and voted that it would be introduced to the country by as early as October, unless there is a power-sharing executive formed at Stormont.

Foster told Peston on ITV: “I believe that the abortion legislation was imposed upon Northern Ireland, going against the devolution settlement.

"It should have very much been left to the Northern Ireland Assembly to deal with these issues. It was imposed upon us.

"Now what we need to do is - the Assembly is back and running - therefore we need to have our voice heard in relation to all of these issues because it will be a very different voice to what has been imposed on us from Westminster.

"There is unanimity across the chamber in regard to the fact that currently we have a position were abortions are available up to 27 weeks, which is totally unacceptable.

"There will be some argument about where that should come back to. I think everybody in Northern Ireland recognises that that is not a sustainable position."

The DUP leader went on to say there should be ‘safeguards’ for people who don’t want to engage in same-sex marriages and said same-sex marriages – a basic human right for LGBTQ people – were imposed on the country.

"Same-sex marriage, like abortion, has been imposed upon Northern Ireland,” she continued.

"What we need to ensure now is the same safeguards for those people who don't want to engage in those issues - from a church point of view [protections] are given to Northern Ireland as have been given to the rest of the UK.

"The Secretary of State says that is the case and we very much hope that is the case."