A Sinn Féin proposal to support gay marriage, submitted to one of Northern Ireland’s largest district councils, has been comprehensively defeated. The motion was rejected before any debate could take place.
Sinn Féin members wanted the council to support same-sex marriage nationally. The leadership of the party called for Northern Ireland to hold a referendum on the issue in April, following the referendum held in the south this May.
Sinn Féin Councillor Tony McCaul gave a personal speech about his gay daughter. He said recognised many councillors had “deeply held religious beliefs,” but he left his “beliefs outside [the council] door”. He added that gay marriage was a “human right.”
Only the three Sinn Féin members voted in favour of McCaul’s proposal. Members of conservative and unionist parties the DUP, UUP and TUV all voted against the proposal.
The single Councillor from the Irish Nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) abstained from the vote – despite her party officially support gay marriage. Sinn Féin accused SDLP members on the council of trying to “ride two horses” last week, as it became clear some were not toeing the party line.
The Coleraine Times reports McCaul told the council:
“My daughter is actually gay. My first words to her were, ‘I wish you would have told me sooner so that I can help you through this difficult situation’. She said to me ‘I have two heterosexual brothers. They can marry whoever they love. I can’t. The state doesn’t allow me.’
“Expressing love by marrying someone is a human right, not a heterosexual privilege. Public opinion in the North here backs same sex marriage by two-to-one.
“I know many people in this room have deeply held religious beliefs. I personally leave my religious beliefs outside that door when I come in here to debate issues that affect people’s lives.
“How does it affect people in the gay community? Incidents of self-harm are very high. Fear of coming out is exceptionally high. Fear of homophobic attacks is high. Some people who are gay can never come out because of these fears. Sadly, this is the society we live in today, in this particular place anyway.
“We need to accept homosexuality as part of what is normal in our society. We have to afford them equal rights. This is the only place on these islands where same sex marriage is not allowed.”