Doug Beattie: All Political Parties Should Allow a Fee Vote on Same Sex Marriage

The News Letter (Belfast, Northern Ireland), August 5, 2017 | Go to article overview

Doug Beattie: All Political Parties Should Allow a Fee Vote on Same Sex Marriage


Time and time again political parties set the agenda on sectarian lines.

Supporting or opposing policies not on their individual merits but simply to act in a contrary manner to their opponents.

Instead of engaging on often nuanced, complex matters through debate and development of policies, the win/lose mentality drives political output.

Because unionists -- in the main -- support leaving the European Union, then Republicans -- in the main -- support remaining within it.

Republicans back the Palestinians. Unionists are shoulder to shoulder with Israel.

And so it goes on. Similarly, diametric views can be found in the areas of the Irish language, the military, legacy... and now LGBT rights.

Because Sinn Fein openly support equal marriage and the LGBT community it feels like the DUP factions must oppose it.

I'm generalising.

But for me, a proud confident unionist, I find this disturbing in several ways not least the fact that simple political labelling means I am automatically lumped into that group that opposes things like same sex marriage (SSM). Such stereotyping ignores the subtleties of life.

You join a political party because you believe in the broad thrust of its policies and its approach. You do not join to be subjugated and hamstrung by it.

Yet I believe my party -- the Ulster Unionists - is better than most. I support SSM. Not all of my colleagues do. But at least we share opinions.

Different perspectives are voiced, heard and respected. In that sense we reflect society and the wider debate going on beyond Stormont. And the words are matched by deeds.

On social issues like SSM the party allows free votes. Members follow their consciences, not dictatorial party lines.

Any objective assessment must conclude that such enlightenment is missing in the Alliance Party, SDLP, DUP and Sinn Fein. …

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