It is just over a hundred years since the Ulster Covenant was signed. There was a small celebration of this in Belfast yesterday. Reading the text of the Covenant, I was struck by how powerful the language was: it talks about civil and religious freedom, and equal citizenship. These are issues that are at the heart of the marriage equality debate.
It may be because I have lived in East Belfast for my whole life, but it sometimes seems that there is strong opposition to equal marriage from the Unionist end of the political spectrum. This got me thinking. Can the fundamental principles of the Covenant be used to argue against marriage inequality as powerfully as they argued against Home Rule?
BEING CONVINCED in our consciences that continued marriage inequality would be disastrous to the material well-being of Northern Ireland, subversive of our civil and religious freedom, destructive of our citizenship, and perilous to the unity of the United Kingdom, we, whose names are underwritten, men and women of Northern Ireland, loyal subjects of Her Gracious Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, humbly relying on the God whom our mothers and fathers in days of stress and trial confidently trusted, do hereby pledge ourselves in solemn Covenant, throughout this our time of threatened calamity, to stand by one another in defending, for ourselves and our children, our cherished position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom, and in using all legitimate political means which may be found necessary to bring about marriage equality in Northern Ireland. In sure confidence that God will defend the right, we hereto subscribe our names.
And further, we individually declare that we have not already signed this Covenant.
You can download a copy of this Covenant to sign and return to me for collation.