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Letters reveal that DUP leader tried to stop gay couples from Northern Ireland marrying in Scotland

2017-06-20
Newly released documents show that Arlene Foster, leader of the DUP, attempted to sway the Scottish Government to prevent same-sex couples from Northern Ireland from marrying in the country. The DUP have been considered 'kingmakers' for the Conservatives after Theresa May's party lost its majority in the aftermath of last month's election. The two parties are currently in talks to enter a formal agreement to govern, as the support of the DUP's 10 MPs would give Theresa May the majority she needs to pass legislation. A deal between the two parties has been criticised from politicians and voters from all sides over the DUP's history of homophobia. Gay former soldier James Wharton resigned his membership of the Conservative Party and accused Prime Minister Theresa May of throwing LGBT+ Tories ‘under the bus’ over the proposed deal. In the aftermath of the election, former Scottish Government minister Marco Biagi alleged that the DUP-controlled Stormont Executive sent a official letters to the Scottish Government asking them to forbid same-sex couples from Northern Ireland from getting married in Scotland. Buzzfeed have obtained copies of the letters through a freedom of information request. The Scottish same-sex marriage law allows for Northern Irish gay couple to convert their civil partnerships into marriages. The law in England and Wales did not allow for this. If a same-sex couple from Northern Ireland wished to get married in England or Wales, they would first have to dissolve their civil partnership, technically divorcing one another. In her role as minister for Northern Ireland's Stormont Executive in 2015, Foster wrote to the Scottish Government expressing concerns over the proposed plan to allow these couples to convert their civil partnerships. In a letter to Biagi, Foster wrote: "I am sure we would both concede that, from time to time, a policy will produce unforeseen difficulties. "However, as policy makers we strive to minimise that possibility and I am sure that neither of us would wish to place same sex couples in an uncertain legal position, which may be difficult and expensive to resolve. "In this instance, we can achieve legal certainty by restricting the definition of a 'qualifying civil partnership' so as to exclude civil partnership which were entered into in Northern Ireland." In response, Biagi told Foster that it "would not be appropriate to exclude civil partnership registered in Northern Ireland from the order." Speaking to Buzzfeed News, Biagi said: "Basically, Scotland is the only place in the UK this group of Northern Irish gay couples can now get married. She [Foster] asked us not to open it. "We consulted with other governments before doing it, they objected, we introduced the legislation, they objected again, but Northern Ireland does not get a veto on domestic Scottish marriage law – end of." Homophobia is entrenched in the DUP's history. The party was founded by Ian Paisley in the early 1970s. In 1977 Paisley launched the 'Save Ulster from Sodomy' campaign, which sought to prevent the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland. Paisley died in 2014, but these views are still widely held in the party. Paisley's son and North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jr. said of homosexuality in 2007: "I am pretty repulsed by gay and lesbianism. I think it is wrong. "I think that those people harm themselves and - without caring about it - harm society. That doesn't mean to say that I hate them. I mean, I hate what they do." More stories: Ryan Philippe ‘proud’ to have played American daytime TV’s first gay teenager Meet ‘RuPawl’, the dog serving killer Drag Race looks