Gormley: it's time bishops stopped interfering
THE Government is determined to face down "interference" in legislation from Catholic bishops who have called for a free vote for TDs and senators on the Civil Partnership Bill.
A conscience vote, or free vote, means being allowed to vote according to one's conscience rather than abiding by the official line set down by the political party.
Gay rights groups, as well as equality and civil liberties bodies, reacted furiously to the bishops' call for "opt-outs" to be included in the bill for civil registrars who have conscientious religious objections to same-sex partnerships.
Green Party leader and Environment Minister John Gormley yesterday said he was taken aback by the opposition to the bill in the statement issued by the Irish Bishops' Conference on Wednesday evening.
The episcopal opposition was renewed yesterday by the Bishop of Elphin, Christopher Jones.
He insisted the bill would undermine constitutional protection for the family by giving same-sex relationships a standing as similar as possible to marriage.
However, Mr Gormley said he "thought we had left the era of church interference behind".
Pointing out that a constitutional referendum would be needed to give gay unions equal status to marriage, Mr Gormley appealed to legislators to vote in conscience to respect the happiness of gay and lesbian partners by giving them long delayed legal rights.
Two Fianna Fail senators, John Hanafin and Jim Walsh, have called for a free vote on the bill.