Northern Ireland: Presbyterian Church states gay marriage opposition in MLAs letter
Reposted from BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-19780261
The Presbyterian Church has written to all assembly members stating its opposition to any change in the current legal definition of marriage.
The assembly is due to debate a motion on same-sex marriage on Monday.
Green Party MLA Steven Agnew said his motion was "simply about equality".
In its letter, the Presbyterian Church said it was "not merely an issue of conscience for Christian people and churches, but a very significant one for the whole of society".
It said gay marriage would "effectively demolish generations and centuries of societal norms established on Judaeo-Christian values".
"The steady erosion of such values, with minimal debate about the worldview replacing them, causes us the very greatest concern," it added.
The church argued it was not an equality issue, "as all of the significant legal benefits and rights available through marriage are already equally available through civil partnership".
However, Mr Agnew said gay Christians were being "denied rights and religious freedoms".
"As the law stands at the moment, a couple without faith can get married in a church while a devoutly religious couple of the same sex cannot," he said.
"Whether a religious institution performs same-sex marriage ceremonies is a matter for the church involved, not the state.
"This is actually an extension of rights to religious institutions to make their own decisions on this issue.
"Therefore, the law preventing churches performing same-sex marriage ceremonies should be removed and instead legal protection should be given to churches to allow then to determine what they define as marriage."
While Stormont currently has no plans for such legislation, local parties have been formulating policies on the issue.
The DUP is opposed to any change in the law, while Sinn Fein is in favour.
Westminster is consulting on whether to allow gay couples in England and Wales to marry, while in Scotland the SNP government has announced plans to bring forward a bill on the issue.