Yesterday outside Fermanagh District Council in Enniskillen (the first Council in Ireland to vote against supporting equal marriage) there was a protest against that decision made at the previous council meeting.
Now there has been discussion this week about whether opponents of equal marriage are bigots or not during the week. The local paper The Impartial Reporter recorded comments from some of the Councillors shortly after they had come past the protestor. As part of the protest a letter was handed to each Councillor expressing their concerns about the vote the other week when the Unionists voted against and the SDLP abstained causing Sinn Féin’s motion to fall by one vote.
One Councillor the DUP’s Cyril Brownlee though he took the letter was seen to ball it up and throw it away without even reading it. You can hear Councillor Brownlee’s comments in The Impartial Reporter‘s recordings. Today some are arguing that the actions and then words of Councillor Brownlee can be summed up by the following definition.
n.One who is strongly partial to one’s own group, religion, race, or politics and is intolerant of those who differ.
Definition from The Free Dictionary
As an elected representative he said he would not read a letter expressing a view merely because it ‘was of no interest to him’. Now I think if something of no interest to him to the extent that he will not even read a contrary opinion of concerned surely that is a very, strongly partial tendency to his own position. Yet he has taken a decision, indeed made a statement that the whole, or majority, of Northern Ireland is opposed to something. Yet in our shared present our politicians are bound to respect minorities, indeed enshrined in the founding document of the Northern Ireland Assembly is protections for all those minorities. For something that is of no interest to him however, he took enough interest to vote against something that clearly he hasn’t even looked into, remember it has no interest to him.
If he had cared to read the letter that was send to him, he would have read these words from the demonstration organiser Frankie Dean:
I am writing to you on behalf of the LGBT community in Fermanagh to ask you to reconsider your vote against Equal Marriage. It is not Gay Marriage because that excludes other same sex couples it is Equal Marriage.
In common with any other area 10% of the Fermanagh population young and older will be LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender), it is wrong to discriminate against any group in society especially minority groups.
It is my understanding from information received and also from press reports that a basis of some councillors decision against this motion was for personal religious reasons. I wish to point out that religion has historically been inherently discriminatory towards different groups in society and it is for this reason that decisions made in council meetings should not be swayed by religious beliefs. If that is to be acceptable where is the end perhaps we should close all shops and garages on Sunday and make everyone go to church twice on Sundays.
I also wish to make clear that Equal Marriage legislation would never force any religious organisation of whatever faith to conduct marriages which are not in their framework of beliefs. It simply makes it possible for those organisations that do wish to conduct same sex ceremonies to do so and will allow same sex couples to marry elsewhere or at the registry office.
Civil partnership legislation is not the same as a Heterosexual Marriage as it leaves same sex couples in a very difficult legal position when it comes to many things including inheritance when one partner dies.
Same sex relationships and marriages will never present any harm or problem to society I cannot understand at all what is the problem with two people making a loving commitment to each other in a society where there is a lot of divorce and difficult relations surely two people loving each other should be encouraged.
In recent meetings council employees told me and others that they supported equality and wanted to reach out to minority groups such as the LGBT community. The decision against Equal Marriage is in direct conflict with this.
Finally I would also point out that out of all the councils that have voted on this issue so far Fermanagh District Council is the only one against. This can only send out messages to society including the worldwide community that Fermanagh is a homophobic place and is behind. This can do nothing to encourage tourism and the local economy. Remember to pink pound is 10% of all income.
I trust that you will take time to review your decisions and will do the right thing and support all sections of society in future.
Unlike Cllr. Brownlee’s irrational actions in not even taking on board the views expressed, this is rational argument pointing out repercussions of the vote that was taken by this Council, not just for a number of residents but to the local economy as well. Fermanagh is of course Northern Ireland’s Lakeland and along with the Causeway Coast and Mournes one of the jewels for the Northern Irish Tourist Board attracting tourists both straight and gay to come visit.
Hardly a majority of Northern Ireland opposed so far. Hardly an issue that is not of interest. And Cllr. Brownlee’s action are hardly the actions that would be tolerated by elected representatives anywhere else in the UK, or indeed from most other political parties.
To publicly react this way to representation from a minority group within his community would not be tolerated if it were any other minority group. So is this an example of bigotry?
Not everyone who is against equal marriage is a bigot. But sometimes it is the way in which you oppose something that singles you out as one. In the case of Cllr. Brownlee there certainly appears to enough evidence that he is strongly partial to his own group, religion, or politics on this issue and is intolerant of those who differ.