Theresa May’s new DUP ally ‘wrote to Scottish government to demand gay marriage curbs’

The Tories will be reliant on DUP support to pass anything through Parliament

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Sunday 11 June 2017 12:54 BST
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Theresa May has been forced to lead a minority government after the shock election result
Theresa May has been forced to lead a minority government after the shock election result (Getty)

The leader of Theresa May’s new hard right allies demanded that the Scottish Government introduce curbs on its same sex marriage laws, a former Scottish minister has said.

Marco Biagi, who served as the Scottish Government’s minister for local government and community empowerment from 2014-16, said Arlene Foster had contacted him in 2015 to demand changes to Scotland’s planned laws.

Ms Foster, acting in her capacity as a minister for the Northern Ireland Executive, had demanded that Scotland exclude same-sex couples from Northern Ireland from being able to get married in Scotland, the former minister said.

“When I was a minister DUP's Arlene Foster wrote to me asking us to curtail access of Northern Irish citizens to Scottish same-sex marriages,” he said on Twitter.

He added: “I said no. Specifically this was couples with prior Northern Irish civil partnerships, who couldn’t switch for marriages in NI (or England and Wales).”

Mr Biagi said the exchange had happened in 2015 and that the Scottish Government was in the process of introducing the conversion procedure from civil partnership to marriages.

He added: “England and Wales still only convert their own civil partnerships. Scotland converts anyone’s. We had to consult internationally with other governments first.”

Ms Foster has been leader of the Democratic Unionist Party since December 2015 and Northern Ireland First Minister from January 2016.

Arlene Foster, DUP leader
Arlene Foster, DUP leader (Reuters)

The DUP takes a hard-right and ultra-religious view on gay rights and women’s rights – opposing same-sex marriage and abortion even in instances where a woman is raped.

Same-sex marriage and abortion are both still effectively banned in Northern Ireland despite it being part of the United Kingdom. The DUP vetoed a recent vote by the other parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly to legalise same sex marriage, using a mechanism under the power sharing arrangement meant to preserve the peace process.

Theresa May stood on the steps of Downing Street this weekend and described the DUP as her “friends” – the Conservatives are currently in negotiations with the DUP to prop up a minority government with a supply and confidence arrangement.

The deal comes after voters unexpectedly rejected the Conservatives at the general election, denying Ms May a majority in the House of Commons and defying most pollsters’ expectations. The Conservatives will be reliant on DUP support to pass anything through Parliament, giving them an effective veto.

The Independent has contacted the DUP for comment on this story but received no response at the time of publication.

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