Irish bishops divided over gay marriage referendum

The Bishop of Kilmore has backed the “no” vote campaign ahead of the Irish referendum on same-sex marriage

The Bishop of Kilmore, Elphin and Ardagh has backed the “no” vote campaign ahead of the 22 May 2015 referendum on same-sex marriage in Ireland.


The Church of Ireland Gazette reports the Rt. Rev. Ferran Glenfield (pictured) added to his signature to a declaration by Protestant leaders opposing an amendment to the Republic of Ireland’s constitution stating: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”


In a statement released last month, the Church of Ireland stated that it’s official position on the referendum is that it “does not direct members on how to vote. The Church encourages people to vote according to their conscience”. ‘=


In an interview with the BBC in May 2014, the Bishop of Cork, the Rt. Rev. Paul Colton said he backed changing Irish law. “I certainly support civil same-sex marriage,” he said, but added that: “I also recognise the Church of Ireland’s definition of marriage is for itself and I adhere to that discipline.”

In May 2012 the General Synod of the Church of Ireland general synod held that: “marriage is . . . a union permanent . . . for better or worse, till death do them part, of one man with one woman, to the exclusion of all others on either side”.

Writing in the Irish Times, Paddy Monaghan, one of the organizers of the “Same-sex marriage Referendum May 2015: A Cross Denominational Response” endorsed by Bishop Glenfield said the “real issue” before the voters was not “equality” or the separation of religious and civil marriage “but the very nature of marriage itself and the nature of the family based on marriage.”

A ‘Yes’ vote for gay marriage would “also undermine the principle of equality by applying it inappropriately to two fundamentally different types of relationship. We respect the right of same-sex couples to have their relationships protected in law but we reject the idea that this union shall be regarded as the same as marriage.”

The gay pressure group Changing Attitude Ireland criticized Bishop Glenfield for his support of the ‘No’ campaign. Its chairman,  Dr Richard O’Leary told EILE magazine:

“Bishop Glenfield should be mindful of how in the past the Catholic and Protestant churches opposed mixed marriages,” adding he was “disappointed that Bishops should now be seeking to introduce the right of businesses to discriminate against customers on the basis of sexual orientation”.

However, the discrimination in this case was faced by those who could not in conscience support gay marriage. Mr. Monaghan stated: “Freedom of conscience regarding religious beliefs is a basic human right. This would be challenged by a Yes vote.”

“Already there is extraordinary social pressure on people to endorse same-sex marriage. Service providers such as caterers and photographers would be acting illegally if, on grounds of conscience, they were to decline services for same-sex weddings. In the UK three adoption agencies had to shut because they were not prepared to provide adoption services to same-sex couples.”

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