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Broad support exists among Fianna Fáil TDs for a conscience opt-out in the Civil Partnership Bill, which was introduced in the Dáil yesterday, according to reports.
At a meeting of almost 30 TDs and Senators with Justice Minister Dermot Ahern yesterday morning, about 50 per cent of the speakers favoured such an amendment, according to Mr Sean Connick, chairman of Fianna Fáil’s justice policy committee.
However, Mr Connick, who convened the meeting, said that Mr Ahern was not in favour of such an amendment.
The possibility of an amendment to protect religious freedom had been raised at a Fianna Fáil meeting in October addressed by Iona Institute Director, David Quinn, and Sam Harper, Honorary Secretary of the Church of Ireland General Synod.
Under the legislation as it stands, photographers and parish halls, for example, could be open to legal action if they declined to be involved in ceremonies or receptions once the law came into force.
This is because the Civil Partnership Bill amends the Equal Status Act and Employment Equality Act to the words “marital status” with “civil status”.
In other countries where civil unions have been legalised, people who have refused to facilitate such unions have been successfully sued.
Last year, in New Jersey, a Methodist group was deprived of tax-exempt status for refusing to allow its grounds to be used for a post same-sex civil union reception.
In New Mexico, a state civil rights commission fined an evangelical wedding photographer $6,637 because he would not photographer same-sex commitment ceremony.
However, states such as Vermont, which have legalised same-sex marriage, have introduced protections for religious organisations.
BR> However, Mr Connick told The Irish Times that Mr Ahern “ruled it out on the grounds that he felt we’ve enough protection from equality measures already in existence”.
Another observer said Mr Ahern explained that such an amendment “would not be good law”.