Statement by Derek McAuley, Chief Officer

It has been a bit of a roller-coaster for the Same Sex Marriage Bill over recent months but yet today we can truly celebrate now that the legislation has received the Royal Assent. This is an historic day for the full inclusion of LGBT people in society.

Unitarians began this journey in April 2008 when our General Assembly supported the right to hold civil partnership ceremonies in places of worship. At the time it seemed so radical and unachievable. To move so quickly to same sex marriage in church as well as in civil settings is a remarkable step.

We would congratulate members of all political parties in both Houses of Parliament who have steadfastly supported equal marriage. To our opponents we say that your fears will be found groundless.

We are pleased that Parliament accepted our arguments that those faith groups who wished to host same sex marriages should be able to do so. Religious freedom meant the right to say yes as well as no. This was, of course, not in the original consultation paper yet the Government responded to our sincerely held views.

Same sex marriage has been controversial, however, with our friends in the Quakers, Liberal and Reform Judaism and in other faith groups; we have prevented this from becoming a “culture war” between faith and secular society. There is clear support for same sex marriage across people of many faiths and none.

Unitarians will be working with the Government to ensure that the regulations that will govern provision of same sex marriage are workable and that the lessons surrounding the somewhat flawed introduction of civil partnerships in religious premises will be learned. So let’s celebrate today; with the hard work ahead.

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