Thursday 23 November 2017

'Equality for all, not just for certain people' - Petition against gay marriage rights sent to Justice Minister

David Kearns

A petition seeking a ‘conscience clause’ allowing people to ignore gay marriage in some circumstances has been sent to the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.

Citing recent controversies where businesses have been brought to court for refusing gay couples as customers, a collection of Christian, Muslim, and Quaker groups have asked the minister to “ensure the referendum guarantee equality for all”.

“If we are having this referendum on the firm belief of equality then also we should allow people with consciences objections as well,” said Dr Ali Selim, of the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland in Dublin.

“What we are asking for is that we are not forced to endorse a practice that is in conflict with our fate.”

“It is the freedom of choice not to have views imposed on our religious beliefs.”

Read More: Islamic scholar threatens Irish publications with legal action if they publish offending cartoon

The document states that the religious bodies disagree strongly with the proposed “aggressive secularism” constitutional changes, and warns if passed under their current wording, would discriminate against people opposed to gay marriage for religious reasons who will “risk prosecution” if they hold firm to their beliefs “in employment, worship or social interaction.”

Dr Ali Selim of the Islamic Cultural Centre
Dr Ali Selim of the Islamic Cultural Centre

Speaking on Newstalk’s Lunchtime, Dr Selim said “safeguards” were needed to protect those that disagreed with same-sex relationships from having to go against their beliefs by law.

If a ‘conscience clause’ was included by Minister Fitzgerald, it would mean that businesses would be allowed to refuse services related to gay couples.

Read More: Freedom of speech has limits, says Islam scholar

Challenged that businesses have the right to refuse to serve customers, Dr Selim said that some “would find themselves being put into a corner or taken to court by people over their refusal to go against their fate.”

Adding: “Who decides what discrimination is? Of course decisions should be made in light of Irish law – but if Irish law says you’ve got to endorse something against your beliefs that is discrimination.”

“And that is exactly why we are campaigning – so that there is equality for all, not just for certain people.”

Speaking earlier in the week, Dr Selim, who threatened to use Ireland's blasphemy laws to stop any Irish media outlet from republishing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons, said “no Muslim would vote yes” in the referendum.

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