Blair Delays Gay Marriage Bill to Give Paisley Party Chance to Vote
Observer, September 19, 2004
By Henry McDonald, Ireland editor
Tony Blair postponed a vote in the House of Commons to
legalise gay marriages to placate the born-again Christian preacher and leader
of the Democratic Unionist Party, Ian Paisley.
The second reading of the Civil Partnerships bill was
scheduled to be voted on in Parliament last Thursday. However, Paisley asked
the Prime Minister to put the vote off because all six DUP MPs would be at the
talks in Leeds Castle, Kent, aimed at restoring devolution in Northern
Blair’s decision showed the importance he attaches to
the role of the DUP in the Northern Ireland peace process. The party now has
the largest number of MPs and members of the Northern Ireland Assembly in the
Paisley called Blair last Friday and pointed out that he
and his fellow MPs were determined to vote on the gay marriage legislation but
would be unable to do so due to their commitments at Leeds Castle.
Paisley’s son, also called Ian, last night confirmed
that his father had persuaded the Prime Minister to delay the second reading
of the bill.
‘My dad rang Downing Street last weekend and told the
Prime Minister that the six DUP MPs would be unable to vote on the bill,’ he
said. ‘The Prime Minister agreed to postpone business until another date.’
Paisley Sr is the leader of the fundamentalist Free
Presbyterian Church as well as chief of Northern Ireland’s largest political
party. He is resolutely opposed to gay relationships and all his MPs were
planning to vote against the Civil Partnership bill.
Paisley has led several public
campaigns against gay rights in Northern Ireland, including his ‘Save Ulster
From Sodomy’ crusade of 1981, when he opposed the British government’s
move to lower the age of consent for gay sex from 21 to 18.