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Council chairman’s New Year Resolution: Put gay marriage to rest

Bert Johnston, Chairman of Fermanagh District Council.

Bert Johnston, Chairman of Fermanagh District Council.

A GAY rights activist has slammed a Fermanagh DUP councillor after he “hoped” 2015 would bring an end to gay marriage campaigns because, “it’s between a man and a woman”.

When asked for his New Year Resolutions, Fermanagh council chairman Bert Johnston replied he wanted gay marriage, “put to rest” and that the scriptural marriage should be upheld in the North.

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He told the Fermanagh Herald: “I hope the things people are pushing for that I don’t think should be justified – which is gay marriage – will be put to rest. Northern Ireland is generally a Christian country and most people think the scripture marriage should be upheld in Northern Ireland.”

When asked if that was a marriage between a man and a woman, he said: “Yes, well that’s the scriptural one. It’s Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve.”

His comments have been criticised by a gay rights campaigner and Sinn Fein MLA Phil Flanagan who accused the chairman of being, “irresponsible”.

“Thankfully his views are not shared by the majority of people in Ireland,” the Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA said.

“Most people want to see progress on equality but I’m not surprised that Bert Johnston, a man who has advocated inequalities his entire political career, makes a statement like this.

“I think basing laws around the Bible is not the way to go. It was written for a specific period in time, we can’t be bound by the Bible in taking it literally.

“I’m not surprised he comes out with comments like this. Thankfully, he is the minority. Most people don’t hold his views. What about the part of the Bible about loving your neighbour. What would Jesus do in this situation?

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“Is this really how Bert thinks that his Lord and Saviour would treat people and subject them to extreme levels of bullying and discrimination, is this really the way he thinks the Bible should treat people.

“It’s very irresponsible for a political leader to use such language. Many young people in schools are being bullied because of their sexual orientation,  and that needs to stop. We need to work together and remove this before it gets worse.”

John O’Doherty, director of the Rainbow Project, a gay rights organisation, said: “To those who believe that they can turn back the tide of equality for LGB&T people, I say this: Public opinion is on our side, the law is on our side and common decency is on our side.

“Here in Northern Ireland, the 2012 Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey found that 57% of respondents favoured recognising the validity of same-sex marriages.

“That number rises to over 70% for those under the age of 45.

“Politicians who continue to be on the wrong side of history will ultimately harm their own long-term relevance and electability.

“We support the right of faith groups, churches and religions to recognise marriage within their own confines. However, marriage is a civil institution, the legal recognition of a couple regardless of sexual orientation should be equal under the law.”

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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 28 Belmore Street, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, BT74 6AA