Church of Ireland split over DUP bill to permit anti-gay discrimination

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The Church of Ireland is split over a proposed bill in Northern Ireland that would allow people to discriminate against gays on the grounds of religion.

DUP minister Paul Givan has tabled a bill in the Northern Ireland Assembly that would effectively exempt people with ‘strongly held’ religious convictions from equality laws – allowing them to refuse service to gay people.

Reverend Adrian Dorrian, who chairs the Church and Society Commission, told the Church of Ireland Gazette that he broadly welcomed the bill.

He said: “We will certainly encourage a comprehensive conversation around religious and civil freedom in Northern Ireland and I will be affirming the Church of Ireland’s position that marriage ‘is part of God’s creation and a holy mystery in which one man and one woman become one flesh’.”

He added that he would seek amendments “to ensure it cannot be used to facilitate discrimination against members of the LGBT community”.

However, his comments have been condemned by Canon Charles Kenny of pro-gay group Changing Attitude Ireland.

Rev Kenny told the Belfast Telegraph: “I hope that the Rev Dorrian’s view is not shared by all members of the Commission or the wider membership of the Church of Ireland.”

“This is more Mr Dorrian’s views, as he’s known as a social conservative, rather than the views of the Church and Society Commission as they have not put out any official response to the DUP over the consultation.

“He seems to be making this an issue between gay people on one hand and Christians on the other.

“And it’s not. There are lots and lots of members who do not accept the hardline, fundamentalist biblical literalistic line that Mr Givan and the DUP has as a whole.”

The Catholic Church in Ireland has voiced support for the bill.