Comhar Criostai,THE CHRISTIAN SOLIDARITY PARTY, 14 Frederick Street North, Parnell Square. Dublin 1 . 01-8783529 comharcriostai@eircom.

net , mobile 087 913 0869 E-mail:

Dear Deputy And Senators Unprecedented Threat to Religious Freedom: Dáil to Debate Bill on November 2 The Civil Partnership Bill, which includes provisions that would severely restrict the rights of religious believers in Ireland is expected to come before the Dáil on November 2. The recent agreement between Fianna Fáil and the Green Party on the revised programme for government commits them to enacting this Bill, along with a range of other radical social policies. Marriage is of immense but often underestimated value to Irish society We can too easily take marriage for granted, but it needs to be supported if it is to flourish. This Bill is a direct threat to the institution of marriage and is a declaration by the State that it does not consider marriage to be worthy of special support. This is in violation of the Constitutional protection of marriage. The family based on marriage gives children the optimum start in life Marriage provides most children with their best chance of growing up in a happy, stable, supportive family. Parents who make a solemn legal commitment to each other are more likely to be committed to their children. They are also more likely to stay together through their children’s formative years. Proposals for legislation on Civil Partnership undermine marriage By setting up civil partnerships which share most of the legal characteristics of marriage, this Bill would undermine the special status of marriage. The legitimate rights of homosexual citizens can be guaranteed without the proposed law Advocates of the Bill have claimed that such a law is necessary to address unjust discrimination suffered by homosexual citizens. This is not true. If there are specific areas where homosexual citizens are unjustly discriminated against, these can be addressed by specific legal remedies. They do not require the creation of a legal institution analogous to marriage. Only a handful of countries has chosen the path Ireland proposes to follow. Others have considered it and rejected it While supporters of the Bill would like to give the impression that this is part of an irresistible international trend, this is not the case. Only a very small minority of countries have introduced similar laws. Even within the EU, where such laws are most common, only a minority of countries has introduced such laws and some of those are much more limited in scope than the proposed Irish law. In other jurisdictions, legislation of this sort has not had the expected effect. In the UK, for example, an initial burst of enthusiasm for the novelty of civil unions was followed by a precipitous decline in the numbers availing of them. The Bill would impose severe restrictions on the rights to freedom of conscience and religion This Bill will force those who believe in traditional marriage to act against their deepest held convictions or face legal action. Photographers, printers, Church halls and anyone who provides services relating to weddings are among some of those who could find themselves being sued if they refuse, for conscientious or religious reasons, to provide services to same-sex couples. This Bill treats those who believe in traditional marriage as equivalent to racist bigots. In fact, it represents the most aggressive attack on freedom of conscience and religion seen in this country for a long time and it would be hard to find a similar example in any developed democracy. It is a strange priority to pursue at a time of national economic crisis The government has played down the likely cost of applying the proposed law. The complexity and frequent instability of homosexual relationships will, even if the numbers involved are small, add significantly to the burden on the family courts. There is also the likelihood that the legislation would be challenged in the European Court leading to changes which would add significantly to the cost. In April 2008, the European Court of Justice, in the Maruko case, found against a private

pension scheme which covered spouses, but not civil partners. This ruling, in effect, means that it will be extremely difficult for any EU member state to legislate for civil unions which are not granted, de facto if not in name, all the benefits of marriage. At a time when thousands have lost jobs and thousands more are fearful of losing their jobs and even their homes, this is a strange priority for a government to pursue. Policies to strengthen marriages and families would help people weather the recession better. There is no indication that the government recognises this fact. Is mise, le meas, ------------------------------Paul O’Loughlin, President Of Christian Solidarity Party.

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