Northern Ireland Secretary sparks outrage by comparing same-sex marriage to a fast internet connection
The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has caused a backlash by comparing the right to same-sex marriage to the right to super-fast broadband.
Karen Bradley took up the role two weeks ago, before slapping down any notion that she would intervene to ensure same-sex marriage was legalised in the country.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK without marriage equality.
Speaking to the press, Bradley insisted that introducing marriage equality was a job for a future Northern Ireland Assembly, saying she didn’t want to “impose” equality on the country.
And today, in an interview with Belfast radio station U105, she sparked further fury.
Bradley was asked by host Frank Mitchell whether the DUP – the party which has done the most to block same-sex marriage being legalised – “totally frustrate” her over the issue.
The 47-year-old, who has been an MP since 2010, responded: “Look, I voted for Equal Marriage to apply in England and Wales.
“I didn’t vote for it to apply in Scotland for example, that was a matter for the Scottish government.
“It will be a matter for the elected politicians in Northern Ireland to make a decision about equal marriage.
“That’s for them to decide.”
It was then that she made the unfortunate comparison.
“It’s not for me to impose,” said Bradley, “in the same way it’s not for me to impose the way that super-fast broadband is rolled out across the country.
“In my own county of Staffordshire, its rolled out by the county council. In Northern Ireland it needs to be rolled out by the Executive.
“That’s why we need an Executive in place.”
The backlash has been swift.
John O’Doherty, director of The Rainbow Project said he found Bradley’s comments “absolutely insulting to same sex couples across Northern Ireland currently denied equal treatment under the law.
“The denial of rights to UK and Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland should not be minimised and it is particularly galling to hear these comments from an MP who purports to support same sex marriage and equality for LGBT people,” he added.
Patrick Corrigan, the Northern Ireland programme director at Amnesty UK, said: “Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley has just compared extension of #MarriageEquality to NI to the roll-out of broadband.
“The parallel is, frankly, an utter insult to NI same-sex couples denied the right to equal treatment under the law.”
And journalist Siobhán Fenton, who is writing a book about the Northern Ireland peace process, wrote that “47% of LGBT people in Northern Ireland have considered suicide, 25% have attempted it, 35% have self-harmed.
“For the Conservatives to compare denial of LGBT rights to people not having high speed broadband is astonishingly tone deaf”.
She added: “For what it’s worth, her comments also aren’t actually accurate – being a member of the non-high-speed-broadband community isn’t a protected characteristic under equality legislation but being LGBT is, so the two aren’t comparable in terms of the state’s obligations to citizens”.
Listen to the Secretary of State’s comments here: