Evangelicals and LGBT unite against Northern Ireland same-sex marriage referendum

Ivan Lewis, Labour's shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland, admitted there wasn't support for same-sex marriage in the Assembly.Reuters

Evangelicals and LGBT activists are united in opposition to calls for a referendum on same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. 

Ivan Lewis, Labour's shadow secretary of state for Northern Ireland, yesterday called for a public vote to legalise SSM in Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK yet to do so. 

However both the Evangelical Alliance in Northern Ireland and LGBT group the Rainbow Project have opposed the suggestion. 

Same-sex marriage legislation has been rejected by a majority four times in the past three years in the Northern Ireland assembly. 

"We feel that four democratic votes in the Assembly in three years is enough. We don't need to see a referendum or another vote for some time," a spokesman for the Northern Ireland Evangelical Alliance told Christian Today.

"We believe there is value in retaining a distinct definition of marriage as between a man and a woman as a platform for flourishing."

It is not just faith groups that oppose Lewis' proposal. The Rainbow Project, which says on its website "we believe that all sexual orientations should be celebrated equally" is also opposed to the idea of a referendum.

"We would prefer the legislation to go through the Assembly," Gavin Boyd, a spokesman told Christian Today.

"We don't think people's right to equal marriage should be in a public vote. This won't be going away until we have equal marriage for people in Northern Ireland," he added.

Lewis admitted there was not support for this change in the Assembly, hence his decision to follow the Republic of Ireland's lead in holding a public referendum.

"Ideally, there would be sufficient support in the Northern Ireland assembly to introduce legislation for same-sex marriage," he told the Guardian yesterday.

Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, Ivan Lewis, described Northern Ireland as a “cold home” for many LGBT people

"This is currently not the case and as in the Republic of Ireland I would propose a referendum be held which allows the people to decide."

The concerns of faith groups would be taken into account in any legislation, said Lawes.

"Naturally, legislation triggered by a 'yes' vote would include provisions as in the Westminster legislation which ensure faith groups are not required to undertake any activity which they deem as contrary to their beliefs," he said.

Recent polls found that, if a referendum was held, the public would vote overwhelmingly in support of same-sex marriage.