Civil Partnership Bill Passed to Committee Stage, Threatening Freedom of Conscience for Christians

Country: Ireland

Date of incident: June 26, 2009

A new Irish initiative that would grant rights to homosexual couples contains no conscience clause and lays out fines and potential prison sentences for registrars who refuse to carry out same-sex civil partnerships. Concerns from church leaders disregarded as Bill passes Second Stage consideration.

The Irish government has passed the Civil Partnership Bill to the Committee Stage of consideration. The proposed laws would cause Christian registrars who refuse to carry out same-sex civil unions to face fines and jail sentences. The laws would grant welfare and tax benefits on a par with those of marriage to homosexual couples who enter a civil partnership. They also establish greater rights for cohabitating couples, whether heterosexual or homosexual. A group of 19 church leaders from across Ireland protested the law and wrote to The Irish Times expressing their deep concern at the plans. These leaders said the Civil Partnership Bill is a “direct attack” on freedom of conscience and religion, and called on Ireland’s Justice Minister to allow for freedom of conscience in the Bill. In January, Minister Dermot Ahern, said there would be no conscience clause in the Bill. Concern has been expressed in the press that the Civil Partnership Bill could seriously compromise traditional views on marriage. David Quinn, writing in the Irish Independent, warned that the Bill “will treat belief in traditional marriage as a form of prejudice, to be outlawed under certain circumstances.”