Scottish Government confirms Arlene Foster sent letter on gay marriage

DUP leader Arlene Foster holding a press conference at Stormont Castle. Picture by Mal McCann
Brendan Hughes

THE Scottish Government has confirmed it received a letter from Arlene Foster about its laws surrounding gay marriage.

It said the correspondence was received in September 2015 "in her capacity as a minister of the Northern Ireland Executive". The DUP leader would have been finance minister at the time.

Civil servants currently running the Stormont executive have been urged to publish the letter after its existence emerged following the Westminster election results.

Former Scottish minister Marco Biagi claimed Mrs Foster wrote to him asking to curtail same-sex marriage access for Northern Ireland couples.

Both the executive and Scottish Government have said they will only consider releasing the letter through freedom of information laws.

Mr Biagi said on Twitter: "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.

"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)."

He added: "England and Wales still only convert their own civil partnerships. Scotland converts anyone's."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Under the Marriage and Civil Partnership (Scotland) Act 2014, couples in a civil partnership registered in Scotland can change their relationship to marriage.

"In 2015, a legislative change extended that so couples in a civil partnership registered outside Scotland could also change their civil partnership to a marriage.

"Correspondence to the Scottish Government on this issue was received in September 2015 from Arlene Foster, in her capacity as a minister of the Northern Ireland Executive."

Clare Bailey, Green Party MLA for South Belfast, called for Stormont to release the letter "as soon as possible".

"We should see the content of this correspondence to understand the nature and extent of Arlene Foster's intervention," she said.

"The DUP go to great lengths to suppress the rights of our LGBTQ citizens – even though the majority of people in Northern Ireland support same-sex marriage and other equality measures.

"So, it wouldn't surprise me if Arlene Foster intervened in the business of another devolved administration in her anti-equality offensive."

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