Friday, 27 March 2015
An Bille um an gCeathrú Leasú is Tríocha ar an mBunreacht (Comhionannas Pósta) 2015: Céim an Choiste - Thirty-fourth Amendment of the Constitution (Marriage Equality) Bill 2015: Committee Stage
The area of freedom of conscience warrants more from the Minister than sticking to the script. It is an issue. She knows it is an issue. As Minister for Justice and Equality, she has a particular responsibility in the area. We have seen, in Britain and in other countries, situations in which Catholic adoption agencies that were doing good work had to close. What will happen here in that regard? What will happen in regard to marriage guidance counselling, which some Catholic groups organise, and which is often run primarily by lay people? What will their position be? What will the position be on pre-marriage courses, which are very necessary to prepare people? One of the great failures of the State has been the failure to provide some architecture to support marriages that run into difficulties in order to encourage people to get over those difficulties, with the intention of trying to save the marriage. We are good at giving support, which I am not condemning, to assist people in breaking up in a more harmonious way and to take the conflict out of it. I welcome that, but surely we should be inclined to more constructive, preventative measures.
What is the Minister's view on those issues, assuming this is passed? Does a business such as the one we are discussing have a choice between closing down and abrogating its conscience? Or do they have the defence - which would be genuine, as most people, regardless of which side of the fence they are on in this debate, would agree - that they have a conscience issue in relation to it? I would like the Minister to answer that very specifically.