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DUP leader Arlene Foster allegedly tried to interfere with Scottish gay marriage

June 15, 2017

(Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

The leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party allegedly tried to restrict Scotland’s gay marriage law.

Arlene Foster, whose party has come under repeated fire for homophobic views, is said to have written to Scottish politicians in 2015 asking them to bar Northern Irish same-sex couples from converting their civil partnerships into marriage.

Marco Biagi, a former Government minister, revealed the letter during a string of tweets this week, saying he refused the request.

Mr Biagi said the party were unhappy that Scotland’s gay marriage legislation allowed couples from abroad to convert their civil partnerships into marriage – including those from Northern Ireland.

Same-sex couples in England and Wales can only convert a civil partnership it was originally authorised in England or Wales.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has now been urged to reveal the letter after officials said it would only be given out if a Freedom of Information (FOI) request was made.

Under FOI laws public bodies must make requested information available to anyone who requests it within 20 working days, subject to a number of exclusions.

John Finnie, a Green Party member of Scottish Parliament, also backed the calls for the letter to be made public.

Nicola Sturgeon

Speaking to the Guardian, Ms Sturgeon said she would consider requests to release the letter voluntarily.

She added: “I think it is regrettable that Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK where loving, same-sex, couples cannot get married as they can in England, Wales and Scotland. I certainly would hope that we see that change for the better in the not too distant future.

“[I have] deep-seated concerns at the prospect of some kind of grubby deal between the Tories and the DUP to allow Theresa May to cling to office.

“I don’t think that kind of deal, particularly if it is not fully transparent, is in the national interest in any way, shape or form.”

After losing her majority in the House of Commons, it looks increasingly likely that Theresa May will form a coalition with the DUP.

The Rainbow Project, an LGBT campaign in Belfast, have already filed an FOI request to Stormont, the Northern Irish Parliament, to release the letter.

They also confirmed they knew of couples who had gone to Scotland to convert their civil partnerships.

They added: “Scotland’s beautiful scenery and architecture make it an international wedding destination and for [Foster] to seek to prevent people from Northern Ireland exercising their right, as UK citizens, to marry in Scotland is shameful and requires an apology.”

“We are concerned at this attempt to influence the Scottish government without notifying the assembly. The DUP has consistently used all powers at its disposal to block LGBT equality including vetoing marriage equality despite a majority of assembly members voting in favour.”

The DUP have consistently come under fire for their homophobic views, with some of their top politicians claiming to be “repulsed by gay and lesbianism”.

They have also repeatedly blocked attempted to legalise gay marriage in Northern Ireland, calling it a “red line” for the party.

More: General Election 2017, Northern Ireland, Scotland

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