The Union of Students in Ireland (USI) has criticised the Presbyterian Church in Ireland for opposing civil equality for gays and lesbians ahead of new civil partnership legislation promised by Justice Minister Michael McDowell.
The planned legislation appears to reflect a growing realisation in Government that gays and lesbians can no longer be treated as second class citizens without political consequences – although USI continues to campaign for the extension of full marriage rights to all citizens.
USI said the Presbyterian Church is one of several Irish Churches currently lobbying the Government to retain laws that discriminate against citizens on the basis of sexual orientation, and it urged all faith groups to respect a necessary separation between Church and State.
USI gay and lesbian spokesperson Steven Conlon said: “That the Presbyterian General Assembly should be turned into a forum for undisguised political lobbying is of great concern to students.
“USI believes that religion is a matter for private consciences not public laws, and we oppose ministers of religion seeking to impose their religious viewpoints on ministers of government.
“Instead of seeking to exert pressure on the Government to implement an anti-gay agenda, USI urges all churches to embrace civil equality for all citizens regardless of sexual orientation”.